I have always been a ‘chasing rainbows’ kind of person so, recently, with a view to increasing my everyday happiness, I have been studying the Science of Wellbeing course with Professor Laurie Santos at Yale University.
The course is designed to help us track and increase our own happiness by giving us strategies to to rewire our mindsets and create positive wellbeing habits.
It is a free course with 10 weeks of content which you can do at your own pace. What I love above the course is that the strategies are based on referenced scientific studies and data.
I am currently on week 4 so I have a lot more to learn but I am excited to share with you some new information I have learnt about the powerful psychological effects of Gratitude.
Health benefits of gratitude
Most of us understand that regularly taking stock of our gratitudes and being appreciate of what we have increases our wellbeing. What I didn’t know was that it also has benefits for our physical health.
This study by Emmons & McCullough (2003) investigated the effects of gratitude on psychological and physical well-being.
Three groups where asked to list their gratitudes, life events or hassles.
The study found that:
“There was a significant main effect for the ratings of one’s life as a whole and expectations concerning the upcoming week: Participants in the gratitude group rated their life more favorably on these two items than did participants in the hassles group or events group…The gratitude-group participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups. Lastly, there was a main effect for hours of exercise: People in the gratitude condition spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hr more per week) than those in the hassles condition.”
So counting our blessings regularly actually reduces our symptoms of physical illness and increases our healthy habits such as taking exercise.
Can you imagine how much better we would all feel with 1.5 hours extra exercise each week?
Take the test – how thankful are you?
Here is a quick online test to check your propensity for gratitude. How did you do?
It is clear that intentionally working on counting our blessing has huge benefits for our psychological health and wellbeing. We cannot control everything that happens to us but we can put ourselves in a better position to take a more objective view of life’s ups and downs and appreciate all the good things in our lives.
How can we be more thankful?
* Keep a daily gratitude journal;
* Savour our positive experiences as we are having them;
* Share our positive experiences with others.
And keep it up!
With a regular and ongoing gratitude practice over time we will all be happier, healthier and more at peace.