November 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm #41500
note: I consider the exercises here to be a form of the Inner Smile’s focus on acceptance. Advanced Gratitude practitioners will feel grateful for everything in their life, as even accepting the negative leads to positive states in yin-yang cycle theory. -michael
THE NEUROSCIENCE OF WHY GRATITUDE MAKES US HEALTHIER
By Ocean Robbins
October 30, 2013
Our world is pretty messed up. With all the violence, pollution and
crazy things people do, it would be easy to turn into a grouchy old man
without being either elderly or male. There’s certainly no shortage of
justification for disappointment and cynicism.
But consider this: Negative attitudes are bad for you. And gratitude, it
turns out, makes you happier and healthier. If you invest in a way of
seeing the world that is mean and frustrated, you’re going to get a
world that is, well, more mean and frustrating. But if you can find any
authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the
world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say
you’re going to be better off.
Does this mean to live in a state of constant denial and put your head
in the sand? Of course not. Gratitude works when you’re grateful for
something real. Feeling euphoric and spending money like you just won
the lottery when you didn’t is probably going to make you real poor,
real quick. But what are you actually grateful for? It’s a question that
could change your life.
Recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have
profound and positive effects on our health, our moods and even the
survival of our marriages.
As Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas
Health Science Center, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude
is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”
In one study on gratitude, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the
University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at
the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one
of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group
briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred
in the past week, another five recorded daily hassles from the previous
week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five
events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told
whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. Ten weeks later,
participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a
whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the hassled group. They
reported fewer health complaints, and exercised an average of 1.5 hours
In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about
things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily
practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly
journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit:
Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more
emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the
gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more
technically, their “pro-social” motivation.
Another study on gratitude was conducted with adults having congenital
and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders (NMDs), with the majority having
post-polio syndrome (PPS). Compared to those who were not jotting down
their blessings nightly, participants in the gratitude group reported
more hours of sleep each night, and feeling more refreshed upon
awakening. The gratitude group also reported more satisfaction with
their lives as a whole, felt more optimism about the upcoming week, and
felt considerably more connected with others than did participants in
the control group.
Perhaps most tellingly, the positive changes were markedly noticeable to
others. According to the researchers, “Spouses of the participants in
the gratitude (group) reported that the participants appeared to have
higher subjective well-being than did the spouses of the participants in
the control (group).”
There’s an old saying that if you’ve forgotten the language of
gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. It turns
out this isn’t just a fluffy idea. Several studies have shown depression
to be inversely correlated to gratitude. It seems that the more grateful
a person is, the less depressed they are. Philip Watkins, a clinical
psychologist at Eastern Washington University, found that clinically
depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude (nearly 50
percent less) than non-depressed controls.
Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington has been researching
marriages for two decades. The conclusion of all that research, he
states, is that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of
positive to negative encounters (5:1 or greater), it is likely the
marriage will end.
With 90 percent accuracy, Gottman says he can predict, often after only
three minutes of observation, which marriages are likely to flourish and
which are likely to flounder. The formula is that for every negative
expression (a complaint, frown, put-down, expression of anger) there
needs to be about five positive ones (smiles, compliments, laughter,
expressions of appreciation and gratitude).
Apparently, positive vibes aren’t just for hippies. If you want in on
the fun, here are some simple things you can do to build positive
momentum toward a more happy and fulfilling life:
1) Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. This works
well first thing in the morning, or just before you go to bed.
2) Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you
appreciate about them every day.
3) Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth, and think about
something you have done well recently or something you like about yourself.
To practice it further, join thousands of others in a transformative
21-Day Gratitude Challenge starting November 7th leading up to
Thanksgiving. Grow and learn through your own experience by inviting
gratitude into your life. Through this challenge, you’ll receive a daily
email with inspiration and ideas. You’ll join a vibrant online community
of like-minded people from all over the world, and you’ll have a chance
to share your experiences, read stories of what others are doing, and
support each other’s journeys along the way.
Sure this world gives us plenty of reasons to despair. But when we get
off the fast track to morbidity, and cultivate instead an attitude of
gratitude, things don’t just look better — they actually get better.
Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the
people around you, too. It’s such a win-win-win that I’d say we have
cause for gratitude.
Ocean Robbins is a father, author, speaker, facilitator, and the CEO of
the Food Revolution Network. To learn more about his work, visit
http://www.foodrevolution.org.November 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm #41501
I appreciate you taking the time to post on the forum. 🙂
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