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Beginning This Sunday: Gratitude Project

Beginning this Sunday, and posting every Sunday morning, a new feature will appear on DearSugar. It's a bit of an experiment, but I hope you'll enjoy it and use it. I think of it as The Venting Machine's hopeful cousin.

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There's a well-funded boom happening in research around studies on positive psychology, optimism, happiness and health. Some themes have emerged already, and it would seem regularly expressing gratitude may bring health benefits, increased optimism, determination and perservance, among other things.

* In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

* A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment:Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

* A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.

* Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.

* In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

This Gratitude Project will be our practice of noticing and actively valuing the good things that happen in our lives; you can list at least 3 things from the past week for which you're grateful. It's good to be specific and detailed. I'll list my 3 in the post, and you can add yours in the comments field. I'll keep the link open throughout the week on the Editor's Picks box, so you can post on the weekdays, too. I think it would be interesting if we tried to notice (keeping a journal, maybe?) and discuss any positive results that start to emerge for us. I'll see you there on Sunday, ladies!

If you're interested, more findings from the study above can be found here.

One of the best recent articles about teaching and researching positive psychology ran in The New York Times this past January. When you have a chunk of time to devote, I highly recommend reading it. Fascinating stuff.

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