Dr. Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons, both psychologists, conducted a study at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Splitting the study participants into three groups, the doctors assigned each person to keep a daily diary. The first group was to write about whatever events occurred that day, whether positive or negative. The second was told to document disagreeable experiences only. The third was to record items for which they were grateful.
What the good doctors discovered from the study was that the third group — those who kept the gratitude journal — progressed better in achieving personal goals, were more likely to help others, reported less depression and stress, and they exercised more regularly. In addition to all that, this group also experienced more alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy.
So, what’s the lesson we can learn from this? Gratitude is good for your health and well-being!
Take at least a few moments out of your day, every day, to look for things about which you feel grateful. We all have them. They can be from any category at all: your loved ones, an experience you had, your health, your abilities, personal characteristics, memories. Get in the habit of trying to think of things that fit the category. Even if you can’t come up with answers, simply searching for things you’re grateful for will be of benefit to you.
Even better than thinking about things you’re grateful for is writing them down. Writing is an ideomotor activity. Ideo, like idea, means it involves your mind. Motor, like motion, means it involves your body. You’re making a mind-body connection. Anything you do that involves both your mind and your body is more powerful than things you do with just one.
Keep a notebook and pen near your bed, and first thing each morning or last thing each evening, write down things you’re grateful for. You can write just one or two things or as many as you want. It may go slowly at first, but keep at it, and it gets easier.
Do this for yourself and all those around you starting today. You deserve to feel better!