Gratitude A Powerful Attitude – The Meaning of Life?

Gratitude, so simple and yet so hard.

By Marcia White.

Marcia White, editor, Join The World

Research on the science of Gratitude could improve the lives of millions, if not billions of people around the world. The University of California is helping the general public to understand the new findings and to apply these attitudes to their personal and professional lives.

Studies regarding the affects of Gratitude have been carried out by many universities across the globe, including Warwick, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton and Birmingham in the UK, and the University of California in the US.

According to the University of California, an attitude of Gratitude could provide us with huge benefits including a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, more joy, optimism and happiness, acting with more generosity and compassion, feeling less lonely and isolated.

The University is currently part-way through a $5.6 million, three-year project, ‘Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.’  Provided we can be persuaded to adopt their recommendations, this research will prove to be incredibly valuable, it will enhance the quality of all our lives.

In studies Dr Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, together with Dr Michael McCullough, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, where he directs the Evolution and Human Behaviour Laboratory, has found that Gratitude is good for our bodies.  Not only does it strengthen the immune system and lower the blood pressure, but it also reduces symptoms of illness and makes us less bothered by aches and pains.  It encourages us to exercise more and to take better care of our health.  All we need to do to reap the benefits is to remember to practice gratitude each and every day. For more information about their work read, The Psychology of Gratitude.

Dr Emmons says, “Even armed with years of scientific data, making the case for gratitude can still be an uphill battle. At times I’ve been confronted with objections, reservations, or flat out hostility to the idea that gratitude is a virtue, or that we should devote more energy to cultivating an attitude of gratitude.”

Through his extensive research, Dr Robert Emmons has discovered what gives life meaning: Gratitude. In his best selling book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr Emmons explains how people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an attitude of gratitude will experience multiple advantages.  He found that people who were in the gratitude condition felt fully 25% happier, they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week.

Gratitude can help us through the most difficult times in life, it strengthens relationships, promotes forgiveness and is good for our children.  It is beneficial in the workplace. In particular it has been found that an attitude of gratitude makes teachers feel more satisfied and accomplished, less emotionally exhausted and therefore reduces teacher burnout.

Ocean Robbins, in his article, The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier, states that studies have shown depression to be inversely correlated to gratitude. The more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are.  Philip Watkins, a clinical psychologist at Easter Washington University, found that clinically depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude, nearly 50 per cent less than non-depressed controls.

Dr John Gottman from the University of Washington can predict with 90 per cent accuracy, after only 3 minutes of observation, which marriages are going to flourish and which are going to fail.  The formula is that for every negative expression there needs to be five positive ones including smiles, laughter, compliments, plus expressions of appreciation and gratitude.  So gratitude can even have an affect on our marriage.

Drs Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Center “A growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”

It has been found that simple exercises, such as writing down ten things that we are most grateful for each and every morning, will put us into a good frame of mind to face the rest of the day.  This has been shown to improve our health, our happiness, our work, our relationships, the quality of our sleep and more.  Consequently, our lives as a whole can change substantially when we practice gratification on a daily basis.

As early as 1910, in his book The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace D Wattles, who studied a wide range of philosophers and religious thinkers, states “There is a Law of Gratitude, and it is absolutely necessary that you should observe the law, if you are to get the results you seek.”

“The law of gratitude is the natural principle that action and reaction are always equal, and in opposite directions.”

“The grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best.”

Sonja Lyubomirsky (A.B., Harvard, summa cum laude; Ph.D., Stanford) Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, in her book The How Of Happiness; A Practical Guide to Getting The Life You  Want, wrote “Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem. When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident and efficacious. Unfortunately, for many people, it comes more naturally to focus on failures and disappointments or on other people’s slights and hurts. Gratefulness can help you unlearn this habit.”

To some degree the science of Gratitude could be said to be common sense, even so, it should not be ignored. Making gratitude an important part of our every day lives will reward us.  This is powerful stuff and it is free.  By starting today and immediately incorporating and using an attitude of Gratitude, alongside traditional medicine, we could all experience better health and some of us will see amazing improvements with continuation of the practice.  Perhaps Dr Emmons is right; an attitude of Gratitude is the meaning of life?
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