In recent years, science is showing us that gratitude has health and emotional benefits. In 2003 Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami published the results of their study comparing groups of students keeping journals. One group recorded things they were grateful for. Another recorded things they found annoying. A third group recorded events in their lives. This journaling occurred just once a week for ten weeks.
Compared to members of the other two groups, the students who wrote about gratitude had multiple positive differences—more optimistic expectations, more feelings of connection to others, more inclination to help others, more hours of sleep and exercise, and less pain and other physical symptoms.
Since then many studies have confirmed and expanded on these results. One showed that comparing oneself to others favorably did not create the same results. The experience of gratitude rather than entitlement makes a difference. Another study showed that children expressing gratitude had better attitudes about their families and school.
Here are some links with more information about the science of gratitude:
University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center’s gratitude page. Lots of great links and information found here.
Dr. Robert Emmons himself on his research and findings about gratitude—both in text and video.
A 2007 interview with Dr. Robert Emmons about his gratitude research.