Many Thanks: The Science of Gratitude

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Jessica Maloh, Raja Sivamani MD MS AP

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”- Cicero

The importance of gratitude dates back centuries in the context of philosophy, religion, and spirituality. In present times, its role in our wellbeing and our relationships has been examined scientifically, with countless benefits being demonstrated.   

Gratitude can be thought of as an overall positive orientation to life, and to the many joys and difficulties that come with it. An attitude of gratitude can include noticing and valuing help from others, expressing appreciation, fostering feelings of awe towards loved ones or nature, and focusing on all the good there is in this present moment. 

Research suggests that this attitude is associated with adaptive personality traits, improved well-being, and pro-social behaviors.

Personality 

Numerous studies have found that grateful people are more extroverted, open-minded, and conscientious. In addition, they are less likely to be neurotic, angry, hostile, or depressed. Overall, having feelings of appreciation and awe seem to be associated with experiencing positive emotions more frequently. 

Well-Being

Gratitude has been shown to decrease levels of stress over time and to improve sleep quality and duration. Those who are more grateful also seem to engage in more self-care and health behaviors like improving diet, attending medical appointments, and engaging in physical activity. 

Relationships

Science suggests that experiencing gratitude can increase connection and satisfaction in relationships. Having a grateful attitude has been found to promote conflict resolution and the reciprocation of helpful actions.  

With the start of a new year, we may set an intention to foster a positive and thankful orientation to life. We may reap the benefits by making gratitude lists and going on gratitude visits.  

Gratitude Lists

On a piece of paper, write down 6 things you are thankful for. If possible, do this daily for at least 14 days. In one study where this intervention was done for people with excessive worrying, there were significant decreases in worrying compared to those that did not create gratitude lists. In children, this exercise has been found to increase satisfaction and interest in school. 

Gratitude Visits

A gratitude visit allows you to express thanks to someone who has made a significant difference in your life.  To partake in this gratitude practice, write a letter highlighting your positive feelings towards this person and your appreciation for them. Next, personally deliver the letter and read it out loud to them. Doing so has been shown to increase happiness and decrease depression. What’s more, is that these benefits are maintained for at least 1 month after a visit!

With the many lists and visits we’ll have in this new year, let us bring gratitude along for the ride. It will allow us to see more of the good around us, bring out more of the good within us, and spread it to all who cross our path.

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RAJA SIVAMANI

MD MS AP

I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a board certified Dermatologist. My expertise centers on general dermatology including medical, surgical, and cosmetic services. With training in bioengineering, Allopathic and Ayurvedic medicine, I merge modern research and science with a personalized approach to each patient. My training in Ayurvedic medicine lets me bring in a more humanistic approach to my patient care, science, and research.

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