In a new study, researchers found that people who live their lives with a sense of gratitude are happier and less likely to suffer from psychological issues.
They found that training yourself to be more thankful can help people to feel better and increase mental resilience. This is the first time that this has been demonstrated convincingly.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Twente.
Previously, research into exercises to train people’s sense of gratitude had not been able to discern much effect.
In the study, the team decided to study the effect of a six-week training.
They tested 217 participants with reduced well-being and mild psychological problems.
The people were then divided into three groups at random. The first group, with 73 participants, did the gratitude exercises for six weeks.
They were given different exercise to develop their sense of gratitude every week.
These included actively focusing on feeling appreciative, keeping a gratitude journal, expressing gratitude to others, writing positively about their own lives, and reflecting on the positive effects of adversity.
The participants were asked to do these exercises for about 10 to 15 minutes every day.
The second group, also with 73 participants, was instructed to do five good things for themselves one day every week.
The third group of 71 participants was put on a waiting list.
After both six weeks and three months, nearly 33% of the participants in the gratitude group experienced a higher sense of well-being.
This was substantially more than in either of the control groups (19.2% in group 2 and 13.6% in group 3). The effect on well-being in the gratitude group was evident for up to six months after the training.
These effects also remained evident over the longer term. Gratitude means focusing on what is good in life.
This includes being able to take pleasure in simple things, being aware of abundance and appreciating things that other people do for you.
The team says it is important to say that the idea is not to ignore negative experiences. Acknowledging difficulties and psychological distress, while also appreciating the good things in life, is possible. In fact, that’s the essence of psychological resilience.
The lead author of the study is Professor of Positive Mental Health Ernst Bohlmeijer.
The study is published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
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