Several weeks ago, James Scott Bell posted a question about gratitude. There were a lot of responses to his query, proving writers are a grateful bunch. As we begin this week on final approach to Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a deep dive into the meaning of the word gratitude to see if there’s been any research into its effects.
Wow. I found a lot. It turns out scientists are discovering a wealth of benefits that come from just being grateful. Remember how Mom used to say, “Count your blessings?” In an article entitled “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” researchers Joshua Brown and Joel Wong state, “many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.” They noted the positive effects of gratitude are felt even if you don’t share it. (It’s nice to see science is catching up with Mom.)
Brown and Wong also performed functional MRIs on some of their subjects’ brains and found those people who were more grateful experienced greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area associated with learning and decision making.
Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California, Davis, is a leading expert on the science of gratitude. In his article “Why Gratitude is Good,” he lists a wealth of benefits experienced by people who regularly practice giving thanks. Some of these are
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- Relationship strengthening
- Feeling less lonely and isolated
- Increased daily word count in their writing (Okay, I made that one up, but it’s probably true.)
Now, I’m not advocating that we pretend to be grateful just so we’ll receive the benefits of better mental and physical health. But it’s clear that by sincerely affirming the good things we’ve received, we will enjoy happier and healthier lives. And we may make somebody else’s life a little better along the way.
Since we’re writers, let’s return to the question Jim asked several weeks ago, but with a narrower focus.
Name one thing about writing you’re grateful for. It can be a book you’ve read, a mentor who’s inspired and helped you, a blog you love, or any other person or thing you’re grateful for.
I am certainly grateful for all the contributors and commenters on TKZ. Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you all a safe and healthy holiday.
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop
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Nancy Drew meets Tom Sawyer in this fun and chaotic romp through the third book in the Watch cozy mystery series.
With Time All Things Are Revealed