Gratitude may be more beneficial than we think. A Kent State study assessed the health benefits of writing thank you notes and researchers found that writing as few as three weekly thank you notes over the course of three weeks improved life satisfaction, increased happy feelings and reduced symptoms of depression.
While the research into gratitude is relatively new, the principles involved are not.
Gratitude is a pillar in most of the world’s faith traditions. Catholic Jesuits have a tradition of reviewing every day with gratitude. The Quran recommends gratitude, saying “Whoever gives thanks benefits his own soul.” Buddhists believe practicing gratitude leads to the direct experience of the interconnectedness of all life. Many of us give thanks before meals and “count our blessings.”
Studies like this one from Harvard support these teachings. Individuals who regularly engage in gratitude exercises, such as counting their blessings or expressing gratitude to others, exhibit increased satisfaction with relationships and fewer symptoms of physical illness
There are lots of possible explanations for such benefits. Expressing gratitude may encourage others to be generous, promoting a cycle of goodness in relationships. Similarly, grateful people may be more likely to respond with acts of kindness of their own. A community in which people feel grateful to one another is more likely to be a agreeable place to live.
So practicing a little gratitude can go a long way in not only making ourselves feel better, but uplifting others as well.