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Gratitude Has Better Health Benefits Than Exercise or Skipping Dessert

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Gratefulness Has Better Health Benefits to Exercise and Skipping Dessert

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I was pleased to see a recent article on the health benefits of gratefulness.  In fact, recent evidence suggests that sitting around and verbally expressing your gratitude has better health benefits than exercise or skipping dessert at the Thanksgiving table.  Health benefits include better physical and emotional health and reduced levels of stress and anxiety.  What’s most amazing is that the most grateful people also tend to be the least aggressive.

University of Kentucky Study Demonstrates Benefits of Gratitude

Researchers at the University of Kentucky recently performed an experiment with two groups of college students.  All of the students were asked to write an essay describing a time when they were angry.  The students were then split into two groups: one group was asked to write a letter to someone with whom they had a close personal relationship detailing the things that they were most grateful for, while the other group was asked to write about five things they like to do.  Finally, the researchers randomly wrote comments on the initial essays, some of which were inflammatory or insulting.  The students were then asked to play a game with the researchers who had commented on their papers.  If they won the game, they were allowed to “punish” their  opponent with white noise raised to any decibel level and duration they chose.  Surprisingly, the students who received negative comments on their papers raised the decibel levels the highest and kept the white noise going for longer intervals than those students who hadn’t received negative comments.  However, this is where the effects of gratitude were most prominent: those students who received negative comments but wrote about five things for which they were grateful were the least aggressive, even compared to those students who received no negative comments at all.

Gratitude is “a Shot” Against Insults and Bad News

Ultimately, the University of Kentucky researchers concluded that a “grateful person is one who has days filled with low levels of aggression and hurt feelings, is loathe to behave aggressively toward close others or insulting strangers, and whose overall beneficence in the face of aggressive situations is due in part to being empathic to others.”  Perhaps we could think of gratitude as “a shot” against those things that get most of us down, like bad news or insults.