"When people consciously practice grateful living, theirhappiness will go up and their ability to withstand negativeevents will improve as does their immunity to anger, envy,resentment and depression," says UC Davis sociologist RobertEmmons, who has been studying what makes people happy fornearly 20 years. Rather than objective life circumstances,individual happiness is a function of outlook andperception, according to Emmons.
Emmons published his findings in the Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology in February regarding a number ofexperiments he has conducted over the past four years.
In experiments that used college students, subjects kepta diary: Some recorded how they felt grateful, while otherslisted life hassles or neutral life events.
The gratitude group experienced fewer symptoms ofphysical illness than those in the other groups. Emmons alsofound that people in the gratitude group spent significantlymore time exercising and were more likely to report havingoffered emotional support to others.
In another study focusing on people with eithercongenital or adult-onset neuromuscular diseases, Emmonsfound that their gratefulness practices not only fostereddaily positive feelings but also reduced daily negativeemotions and increased overall life satisfaction.
The gratitude intervention also appears to have improvedthe group's amount and quality of sleep. Furthermore, theeffects on well-being were apparent to the participants'spouses or significant others, who were involved asobservers in the experiment.