No, it’s not that extra serving of stuffing. It’s the expression of gratitude — the simple act of thanking God, thanking others or just counting your blessings. Saying thanks, it turns out, isn’t just pious or polite. It’s good for you.
“It doesn’t really work if you do it only once a year,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside.
Practicing gratitude is like exercising, says Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis: Use it, and you won’t lose it, even when times are tough, as they are for many folks right now.
Lyubomirsky and Emmons are among researchers who have studied the power of gratitude and learned, for example, that:
• People with high blood pressure not only lower their blood pressure, but feel less hostile and are more likely quit smoking and lose weight when they practice gratitude. In one study, patients just called a research hotline once a week to report on the things that made them grateful.
• People who care for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease feel less stress and depression when they keep daily gratitude journals, listing the positive things in their lives.
• Those who maintain a thankful attitude through life appear to have lower risks of several disorders, including depression, phobias, bulimia and alcoholism.
• Most people can lift their mood simply by writing a letter of thanks to someone. Hand-deliver the letter, and the boost in happiness can last weeks or months. Read the rest of this entry »