The Road To Health Is Paved With Gratitude

Officially, so it seems, we start the holiday season with Thanksgiving. For people that celebrate it it’s such a great time of sharing food and spending time with family and friends. Tons of articles are popping up with great recipes and great advice on how to have a healthy one. Hard not to focus on the food. Although there will be lots of overeating and drinking I thought it would be great to focus on how Thanksgiving is a healthy holiday despite that fact.

From an article called Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, Robert A. Emmons, University of California,Davis and Michael E. McCullough, University of Miami researched and found:


• In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

• A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

• A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.

• Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.

• In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

• Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).

Measuring the Grateful Disposition

• Most people report being grateful (an average rating of nearly 6 on a 7 point scale).

• Well-Being: Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

• Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).

• Spirituality: Those who regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer reading religious material score are more likely to be grateful. Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others (McCullough et. al., 2002). Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.

• Materialism: Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of others; and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.

If it’s possible to carry this over to an everyday state of mind, I believe we’ll reap physical health benefits that are far reaching and life changing. The true definition of health is not just the state of being disease free. It’s really 3 fold. Body, mind and spirit. Happy Healthy Thankgiving!!

What are you thankful for? Give us a healthy dose of your thoughts!



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