The Benefits of Giving Gratitude

The Wall Street Journal had a story in today’s paper about an 83-year old woman who has spent much of the past two decades finding out as much as she could about the families who risked their lives to save her Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Greece. She wanted to chronicle their good deeds and give thanks—and do so before it was too late.

The story then pointed out the many benefits of being grateful. Studies have shown that it strengthens our immune systems, helps us sleep better, reduces stress and depression and opens the doors to more relationships. But to reap those rewards, we need to do more than feel grateful, says Dr. Emmons, a psychologist and author at the University of California, Davis.

“The word ‘thanksgiving’ means giving of thanks,” says Dr. Emmons. “It is an action word. Gratitude requires action.” It might mean composing a letter, or posting a photo and caption on Instagram.

One of the problems though is that most people aren’t very good at giving thanks. Only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis; those who are religious or spiritual tend to be more grateful, as are married couples. Younger people—18-to-24-year-olds—express gratitude less often than any other age group.

Family and freedom top the list of things that those surveyed are most grateful for. Jobs rank last, except among those who earn $150,000 or more.

Keeping a journal may be a good way to reflect on what one is grateful for.

Reading the article made me think about my very first post, nearly three years ago. The title of the post was “Thank you.” I used that post as an opportunity to thank the many people who have been a key part of my life. I closed the post with this:

I am grateful for all the help, support, and love I have received over the years, and that the best way to thank everyone is to offer my help, support, and love to others who need it.

Those words from three years ago still hold true today, and all I can say is,

Thank you.


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