“It heals, energizes and transforms lives.”

To whom and what do you thank? This may seem like a simple question to think about, but we don’t always get to grips with it. However, research shows how important gratitude is, not only for feeling it, but also for expressing it.

Christina Karon

“In the year 2022, her whole life has been turned upside down,” says Stacy Patten.

Her husband died of cancer, and her father died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She left after selling the home she had lived in for 26 years.

In her distress, she finds that it feels better to look for the good moments in each day. So I took a big glass jar and turned it into a “gratitude jar” and now it’s on the table by her bed.

Every evening, write a few things you’re grateful for on a piece of paper and put them there. It’s often as simple as, “I met a new neighbor” or “I took mom and the dog for a walk.”

“The sadness is still there, but writing those daily notes helped,” Patten, 56, says.

Two decades ago, a pioneering study led by psychologist Robert Emmons sought to understand how people benefit from gratitude, a question scientists had rarely explored until then.

Gratitude heals

Emmons’ findings—which suggested that gratitude can improve mental health—inspired a flurry of additional research. To date, many studies have shown that showing gratitude, “counting your blessings” and expressing gratitude to others can have positive effects on our emotional health and on personal and romantic relationships.

Meditation on your blessings is good for the body and mind.Photo by Francesco Sicolella/The New York Times

Additionally, some, but not all, studies have shown that gratitude can benefit physical health. “Gratitude is healing, energizing, and life-changing,” says Emmons. “It is the perspective through which we look at life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness and grace.”

But what exactly is gratitude? They are positive feelings that can come from acknowledging that you have goodness in your life and that others – or higher powers, if you believe in that – have helped you achieve it. In other words, the sources of good things “lie at least in part outside the self,” says Emmons.

For example, you can feel grateful when someone is nice to you. But “feeling it is only half the matter,” says Philip Watkins, professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University and author of Thanksgiving and the good life. He says that expressing gratitude is just as important as reaping the rewards of those feelings.

How will it benefit you?

Many studies asked participants to write thank-you notes or list positive things in their lives and then measure the effects of those actions.

The results showed that performing these types of activities has benefits for mental health. Thus, they reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increase self-esteem and satisfaction with daily life.

Multiple studies have also shown that expressing gratitude to acquaintances, colleagues, friends or romantic partners can give a “relationship boost” and “help us draw closer to each other”. So says Sarah Algo, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has studied how gratitude helps relationships.

Gratitude not only improves the well-being of the giver and the recipient, but can also benefit those who witness it: witnessing an act of gratitude between two people can make the onlooker feel more warmth and familiarity for both.

One moment a day is enough

Studies on gratitude do not indicate how often we should express gratitude or how best to practice it. But many experts believe that a small dose of gratitude once a day is ideal.

“I think the benefits of gratitude activities are really seen through long-term habits,” said Joel Wong, a professor of psychology in the Indiana University College of Education who studies whether expressing gratitude in a six-week group program helps people with depression. helps.

To develop a lasting habit of gratitude, try pairing your gratitude practice with an already ingrained routine, says Wong. He chooses to think about what he feels grateful for in the morning. “I try to do that the first time I turn on the computer at work.”

Finally, while many studies have shown the value of writing a letter of appreciation, it doesn’t have to be long or time-consuming. A quick email or text message might suffice.

be specific

Imagine your partner thanks you for cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. What statement would you like to hear? “Thank you!” Or: “I’m so glad you took charge tonight and did all the kitchen work. I love the way we take turns giving each other a little break.

It’s important to be specific, “because it deepens our experience of gratitude,” says Wong. “It intensifies our grateful feelings and thoughts.”

Whether you’re thanking someone else or making a list of the things you’re grateful for in your life, Wong has prepared a list of 100 questions that can be helpful for thinking about gratitude in a more specific way. If you’re doing this exercise, Wong suggests doing it with pen and paper.

“Writing slows down our thought process and allows us to think more consciously,” says Wong. “By writing, we keep a permanent record of the blessings we have received: we can go back to our journal months or years later to remember what we were thankful for.”

© The New York Times

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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