Gratitude

by on November 24, 2011 at 7:05 am in Current Affairs, Religion, Science | Permalink

PsycNet: The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

bodley heath November 24, 2011 at 7:40 am

It’s true.
My sister started doing in NA and it seems to have a v. positive affect.

Patrick L November 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

Just once I want to see a study that says being a curmudgeon makes you healthier, wealthier, and wiser.

Someone from the other side November 24, 2011 at 8:02 am
Kevin November 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm

That study you cited reads like it was written by either a computer or an ESL writer. Very odd, but interesting. It seems that their definition of a ‘pessimist’ is closer to what I would regard as a realist. And, of course, there is no conflict in being a realist/pessimist and nurturing/expressing gratitude.

Michael November 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

I was recently at a seminar that featured a paper on “priming,” and whether or not priming could induce certain economic behaviors. That seems related.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_(psychology)

Michael Giberson November 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

So “count your blessings” works? Nice to know that not every platitude learned in sunday school was complete crap.

Franklin Chen November 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm

In line with my Thanksgiving resolution to start expressing more gratitude for resources I enjoy online, I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving, and I enjoy following this blog. Also, thanks to the commenters who make the blog lively.

By the way, gratitude works for me. It completely changed my life. I never expected that. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for some years now.

Kevin November 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Full article is here. I’ve only scanned parts of it, but it’s pretty interesting, and it’s helpful to read the exact experimental procedures.

joe November 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm

On the contrary, I think the Blessing Agenda is bad, and indeed those things we commonly consider blessings are not

Kevin November 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

You seem to have a definition of ‘blessings’ and a framework for thinking about them that is specific to certain American Protestant denominations. I think your critique of the ‘Blessing Agenda’ is more a critique of those denominations, and doesn’t say much about the study cited.

joe November 25, 2011 at 6:08 am

Hi Kevin – it is true that I’ve been thinking about Blessing in the language of my faith (which isn’t North American Protestant, but never mind), but I think the Blessings Agenda has much wider reach. Yes, you are right, I am still trying to work through these thoughts with reference to the kinds of study you cite – but I think it largely boils down to how exactly you define blessings. If you are a person without many things the rest of us consider blessings, the focus on ‘counting your blessings’ becomes little more than an exultation to put up and shut up. If you are someone with more than the very basic blessings (health, family, food), it becomes an invitation to compare yourself favourably with others.

Kevin November 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

All I can say is I think the idea of ‘being grateful’ doesn’t require a comparison to others. Likewise, I think it is a private thing, and the opposite of the competitive pissing contest that it seems some religious types have framed it to be in your life.

I’m reminding of the link that was posted here at MR recently, positing that humans are not so much driven by greed as by envy. I think cultivating a grateful outlook, as described in the study, is a way to curb that tendency towards comparing ourselves to others, and not another avenue to either show off (induce envy in others) or feel envy and jealousy. And I suspect the more one finds non-material things to be grateful for, the more successful the exercise.

MWStory November 25, 2011 at 5:40 am

Like Kevin, I think you have misunderstood the post, but it is interesting that you raise the idea that being aware of the good things in your life makes you think you have earned God’s favour. Do those people ever notice that Gods seems to be mainly blessing secular Northern Europe or the Shinto or Confucian cultures with long life, wealth and protection from violence?

Daniel Earwicker November 25, 2011 at 6:30 am

I can well believe this is true. And as a pessimist, I feel this is just another example of how life is unfairly stacked against people like me. The optimists get all the breaks.

Leslyn Kantner December 17, 2011 at 9:08 am

The power of gratitude can not be underestimated. It’s not about being an optimist or pessimist per se, but about recognizing the value in any experience and being grateful for the insight you received as a result. One of the reasons that gratitude journals work so well is because the focus of your thoughts are things that you are grateful for – we do tend to experience life in the way that we think of it!

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