The Power of Gratitude

As an affirmed believer in the law of attraction, I see immense value in gratitude. I am certain that when we are grateful for what we have, we attract more. But what does science say?

After running into countless articles without the proper scientific backing, common among business-focused websites, I finally found a study on the impact of gratitude done in 2003 by Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami. Before we jump into the details of the study, let's be certain to understand their definition of gratitude.

Meaning of Gratitude

For the purpose of the study, "gratitude stems from the perception of a positive personal outcome, not necessarily deserved or earned". It's also defined as the recognizing "the unearned increments of value in one's experience". In other words, gratitude is our way of reviewing the things we do have that contribute to our happiness and concurrently acknowledging that everything we have is not because of our own effort or work. As a result, our sense of gratitude tends to positively impact us as well as the world around us.

Assumed Impact of Gratitude On You

The most obvious impact of gratitude is the positive disposition where you tend to appreciate your life with the understanding that things could be worst. Scientists believe that it is an adaptive psychological strategy, in other words, something that has been learned and used over time to create positive life experiences. More notably, a positive attitude is also believed to greatly increase our chances of optimal psychological functioning.

What the Study Has Proven

One of the biggest impacts of gratitude is that the participants generally felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week. What I've learned about gratitude is that it keeps you in the present moment, so I would guess that the optimism regarding the upcoming week comes from the fact that you have dwelled more on your current moment than the future. As a result, you prevent yourself from overthinking and keep negative hypothetical situations at bay.

I'd also like to think this had a domino effect resulting in the increase in the amount of sleep and quality of sleep. It's hard to worry when you are being present and focusing on the good. In effect, your brain is exposed to fewer stress chemicals you sleep better. In contrast, when your brain is exposed to more stress chemicals you lose sleep and as a result of that loss, your brain becomes more exposed to stress chemicals causing a constant cycle of deprivation.

A more surprising benefit was that participants spent more time exercising and experienced fewer physical complaints. I'd guess that fewer physical complaints are a result of exercise, but this could easily point to better physical well being if this study continued over a longer period of time.

Proven Impact of Gratitude on Others

Gratitude doesn't just impact you, it impacts those around you. Recall that earlier in this article gratitude stems from an acknowledgment that our positive experiences are not completely the result of our own behavior. Thus we experience what is called prosocial motivation, which serves to protect or promote the well-being of other individuals without the intention of personal benefit, and tend to give back to others.

Those practicing gratitude were more likely to offer emotional support to others and to help someone solve an issue. The gratitude practice became apparent to those in close relationship with the participants, namely their spouses who noticed a positive change in them.

Considering the benefits, what does it really costs us to channel the power of gratitude and positively impact the world around us? This study proves that it helps to acknowledge all that we have as well as those that may have played a role in helping us get to where we are.

So what are you grateful for today? Can you implement a moment of gratitude into your routine?

I challenge you to make gratitude a priority because science says so.

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