(The third of three interconnected posts on gratitude)
Increasingly science suggests that gratitude is good for us.
Research by Robert Emmons indicates that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. Gratitude:
- Brings us happiness, boosting optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and other positive emotions.
- Reduces anxiety and depression.
- Is good for our bodies, strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing symptoms of stress, illness and aches and pains and encouraging us to take care of ourselves.
- Improves sleep
- Makes us more resilient
- Strengthens relationships
- Promotes forgiveness
- Feeds altruism and compassion
In particular, says Emmons,
“I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”
Greater Good Website – Why Gratitude is Good
He suggests that “true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others”, whether other people or ‘higher powers’ and lists four reasons for its transformative power:
- It allows us to celebrate the present and magnifies positive emotions
- It blocks toxic, negative emotions
- It provides resistance against stress
- It results in a heightened sense of self-worth
He acknowledges that the practice of gratitude can be challenging. It is predicated on acceptance rather than control. It is at odds with the ‘self-serving bias’. It contradicts the ‘just-world’ hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve, and the sense of ‘entitlement’ that rest on this.
Cultivating gratitude, therefore, has to be a conscious choice and lifelong practice.
The infomatic below, included by Robert Emmons on the Greater Good website, gives a great sense of why you might want to cultivate the practice of gratitude.
For more details of this fascinating research, I would encourage you to explore the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website.