Gratitude is the Gift that Keeps On Giving

Dr. Robert Emmons is an expert in the science and power of gratitude. His research brings credibility to why we should all add more gratitude to our lives, showing that a conscious focus on blessings may have physical, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal benefits. In one experiment, students who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis were more likely to engage in regular exercise, reported fewer physical complaints, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. In other research, Dr. Emmons and colleagues enrolled adults with neuromuscular disease and had them participate in a twenty-one-day gratitude study. Compared to a control group of people who did not write down things they were grateful for, those who participated in gratitude journaling reported better moods, more energy, more optimism, a deeper sense of connection with others, and greater quality and duration of sleep.

In his book Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons writes about the “law of emotional contagion.” He explains how individuals are “susceptible to ‘catching’ other people’s emotions.” This isn’t necessarily an original idea. Charles Darwin, Carl Jung, and other theorists noted that emotions were contagious as early as the late nineteenth century. Our emotions are influenced by the emotions of others and vice versa. This works in the positive and the negative sense of emotional contagion, which ties us back to the idea of peopling our lives with positive people who lift us up, not bring us down. The bottom line is that we take on the moods and attitudes of those around us; and at the same time, we are partially responsible for creating the moods of others.

Be the source of positive vibes. You have a choice every moment to express your appreciation for your life and all its gifts, from being able to breathe a deep breath to witnessing a child laugh, or holding the hand of someone you love.