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Thanksgiving is a special time of the year where people express gratitude. Cultivating a mindset of gratitude, not just during holidays but all through the year, is perhaps the most important key to finding health and happiness. Research by the renown psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously practice the life style of gratitude experience greater emotional well-being and physical health than those who don’t.
In one of Emmons and McCullough studies, participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, on specific topics. One group wrote about things they were thankful for that took place during the week. A second group wrote instead about their daily troubles, and the third group wrote about general incidents which were neither positive nor negative. After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were the happiest and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on incidents of irritation.
In another study, gratitude adults, who were having congenital and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders (NMDs) with the majority having post-polio syndrome (PPS), these were compared to a second group who were not writing down their daily blessings. The gratitude participants reported sleeping better, feeling more refreshed, having more satisfaction, having more optimism, and feeling close to others than the participants in the control group.
Also, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the effect of different positive psychology interventions on 411 people. Their assignment was to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to a person that needed to be thanked properly for his kindness. The result was that the participants showed a greater increase in their happiness scores which positively affected their health.
Research shows that gratitude improves not just the physical health but also the psychological health. Gratitude reduces toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Loving others or expressing thankfulness to them causes a positive energy to be felt inside a person. And this simple act of expressing gratitude is a form of self-healing.
So, a five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase a person’s long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. In fact, recent research by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, shows those who engage in gratitude practices have better immune systems, feel less pain, have lower blood pressure, and are less likely to exhibit a mental disorder. “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).