What we need to know about gratitude: science, strategies and sorting through the nons(ci)ense

What we need to know about gratitude: science, strategies and sorting through the nons(ci)ense

Please enjoy this great article by my colleague and friend, Dr. Paula Watkins (and please, also, feel free to learn more about Paula, here work, and how you can get in touch with her HERE)…

By Dr. Paula

I recently published this article in Elephant Journal… you can read it there or check it out below:

I talk a lot about gratitude: I post pictures of things I’m grateful for and I’m guilty of a fair amount of #gratitude hash-tagging befitting my enthusiasm for green smoothies and yoga.

I am one of many.

“Gratitude journals” and the like have become popular, and as with all good things, when they catch on in the mainstream, they lead to a vast array of approaches that use some watered-down methods and, honestly, a bit of new agey, first world nonsense in certain contexts as well.

But practicing gratitude is not new age nonsense.

It’s not pop-psychology, though I can see how it might look that way, and it’s not a first world public celebration of just how #awesome and privileged our lives are—though I can see that, too.

The practice of gratitude is backed by some sound science, and research in this field, that has advanced in recent years.

So what do scientists know, and what do we need to know about gratitude?

The History

The seminal paper in this field came out 10 years ago with an article titled, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life (Emmons & McCollough, 2003). The study showed that participants randomly assigned to notice and appreciate up to five things they were grateful for were happier and healthier than participants who recorded neutral events or hassles.

These findings were replicated in later studies.

In simple terms, for most of us keeping a gratitude journal enhances our mood, optimism and life satisfaction.

However, we’ve also learned that the practice of gratitude can be “overdone” and become stale.

Researchers have started paying attention to this, determining what might be the optimal dosage and level of analysis applied to a gratitude practice. All this enthusiasm has led to variations of gratitude exercises, but to simplify this discussion I’m focusing on the most common personal practice of keeping a gratitude “list” or “journal” (there are also interpersonal gratitude practices as well).

The Practice

Optimal dosage and level of analysis are related. The research suggests the use of two variations: a daily dose of “Three Good Things” and a less frequent (weekly) dose of “Gratitude”.

Here’s what they look like and how they work…

…keep reading the full article HERE