Practicing Gratitude

Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes on  the importance of practicing gratitude!


Practicing Gratitude can make us all Happier. Research finds that people’s happiness levels can increase by 25% by practicing gratitude. Such an increase in the set point for happiness can be sustained over a period of time, contrary to the held notion that our ‘set point’ is frozen at birth.

In his book,  Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov 2008), Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, shows that a systematic cultivation of this emotion can measurably change people’s lives. He describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks.

  • The first group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the last week for each of the 10 weeks of the study. This was called the gratitude condition.
  • The second group were asked to write down five daily hassles from the previous week. This was called the hassles condition.
  • The third group simply listed five events that had occurred in the last week, but not told to focus on positive or negative aspects. This was the events or control condition.

Some grateful conditions that emerged: Sunset through the clouds; the chance to be alive; and the generosity of friends. Those in the ‘gratitude condition’ group were more optimistic about the future and felt better about their lives than those in the ‘hassles’ or ‘events’ condition.

In a second study, Emmons and McCullough asked people in the control condition group to list ways in which they were better off than others. They were making positive comparisons but not necessarily thinking gratefully. Again, the results showed that those in the gratitude condition were significantly happier than those making positive comparisons between themselves and others and those focussing on daily hassles.practicing-gratitude

In a third study that lasted 21 days, Emmons and McCullough recruited adults who had neuromuscular disorders as people with this condition have a good reason to be unhappy with what life has dealt them. Participants in the gratitude condition were found to be more satisfied with their lives, more optimistic about the upcoming week and crucially, were sleeping better.

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