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Gratefulness Leads to Happiness

Gratefulness Leads to HappinessOften the search for a fulfilling life is a journey of trial and error. A new study suggests a short cut may begin at the tip of a fountain pen.

Kent State University’s Dr. Steven Toepfer, an assistant professor of family and consumer studies says that expressive writing is something that has been available to mankind since ink first appeared in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago.

“Everyone is pursuing the American dream. We are wealthier than previous generations, consuming more and experiencing more, but yet so many of us are so unhappy,” Toepfer says.

“The question of ‘is there something simple we can do to be happier?’ is one that I have been thinking about for many years and one that has interested people for much longer.”

With that question in mind, Toepfer enlisted students from six courses to explore the effects of writing letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted the students’ lives.

Over the course of a six-week period, students wrote one letter every two weeks with the simple ground rules that it had to be positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.

After each letter, students completed a survey to gauge their moods, satisfaction with life and feelings of gratitude and happiness.

“I saw their happiness increase after each letter, meaning the more they wrote, the better they felt,” says Toepfer, who also witnessed improvement in participants’ life satisfaction and gratitude throughout the study.

“The most powerful thing in our lives is our social network. It doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t always need to be the life of the party, but just having one or two significant connections in your life has shown to have terrific psychological and physical benefits.”

In all, 75 percent of the students said they planned to continue to write letters of gratitude even when the course was over.

Studies demonstrate, according to Toepfer, that practicing expressive writing is often associated with fewer health problems, decreased depression, an improved immune system and improved grades.

“We are all walking around with an amazing resource: gratitude,” says Toepfer.

“It helps us express and enjoy, appreciate, be thankful and satisfied with a little effort. We all have it, and we need to use it to improve our quality of life.”

Source: Kent State University

Gratefulness Leads to Happiness

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Gratefulness Leads to Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/11/26/gratefulness-leads-to-happiness/3414.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jun 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.