Gratitude Increases Happiness

The following is contains excerpts from R.A. Emmons & M.E. McCullough, Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life, 84(2) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 377-389 (2003).

Research shows that practicing gratitude can increase one’s happiness. Dr. Robert A. Emmons describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks.

The first group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the last week, the second group was to write down five daily hassles form the previous week, and the third group listed five events from the previous week that has neither positive nor negative aspects.

Some of the reflections from the first group included:

  • Sunset through the clouds
  • The chance to be alive
  • The generosity of friends

Before the experiment, the participants had kept daily journals to keep track of moods, physical health, and general attitudes –to provide a comparison after the intervention.

After the experiment, the first group (called the “gratitude condition”) felt fully 25% happier. They were more optimistic about the future and felt better about their lives. They also got almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than those in the other groups.

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