Although Thanksgiving Day is now history, there are good reasons to be thankful all year long.
John Tierney of the New York Times reports that cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” is really, really good for us. We’re talking better overall health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life, and kinder behavior toward others—including your spouse.
Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis suggests that we start with “gratitude lite.” That’s the term for the technique he used in his experiments on the impact of a grateful attitude on health.
He instructed people to keep a journal listing five things for which they felt grateful, like a friend’s generosity, something they’d learned, or a sunset they’d enjoyed.
The gratitude journal was brief — just one sentence for each of the five things — and the subjects only wrote them down once per week. But after only two months he and his fellow researchers found significant effects.
Compared with a control group, the people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.
Further benefits were found in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. Those who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic, and the change was confirmed by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer, and woke up feeling more refreshed.
“If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep,” Dr. Emmons advises in Thanks!, his book on gratitude research.
And don’t forget what the bible has to say about the impact of our attitude. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
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