Davis, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough did a lot of the research on the power of gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week focusing on specific topics.
One group wrote that they were grateful for what happened during the week. A second group wrote about everyday ailments or things that bothered them, and the third wrote about the events that affected them (without emphasizing whether it was positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they exercised more and went to the doctor less than those who focused on the sources of violence.
Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman tested the effect of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with the write-check task about early memories. When their weekly assignment was to write a thank-you letter and personally deliver it to someone who was never properly thanked for their well-being, the participants immediately showed a huge increase in their happiness scores. This effect was greater than any other intervention, with benefits lasting a month.
Of course, studies like this cannot prove cause and effect. However, most of the studies published on this subject support the relationship between gratitude and the well-being of the individual.
Other studies looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study in couples found that individuals who take the time to express their gratitude to their partner not only feel more positive towards the other person, but also feel more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.
There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on the power of gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.
Ways to Cultivate and Utilize the Power of Gratitude
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
When you feel grateful for something you have received or received, it is gratitude. It is impossible to feel in a vacuum; be loved, foreign or a higher power, others are always responsible.
“Gratitude is how you relate to others when you see yourself attached to things greater than yourself.”
Find out more about the power of gratitude and the law of attraction in this article.