Whether your goal is to reduce anxiety or increase gratitude, giving thanks in written form can lead to a calmer outlook during this stressful time.
-Series Editor, H. Steven Moffic, MD
Gratitude is a virtuous quality that allows us to see the best in each other and in our lives. The practice of gratitude helps us become more optimistic. In a 2003 study, Emmons and McCullough1[PDF] tested the effects of gratitude on mental health. For 10 weeks, participants wrote a couple of sentences about anything for which they were grateful. After writing their gratitude lists, they recorded “their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals.” The findings suggest that writing what we are grateful for improves optimism and, coincidentally, increases the amount of time the participants in the study physically exercised.
Optimism may also help us stay grounded. I have been practicing gratitude by writing three things I am grateful for and have enjoyed benefits similar to the participants in the study. I am able to relive joyful experiences of the day and be grateful for all I have. Recording our emotions decreases activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain attached to strong emotions.2 Whether your goal is to reduce anxiety or increase gratitude, giving thanks in written form can lead to a calmer outlook during this stressful time.3
Ms Goldstein is from Evanston, IL. She is 15 years old.
1. Emmons RA1, McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Feb;84(2):377-389. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/Emmons-CountingBlessings.pdf. Accessed April 21, 2020.
2. Sample I. Keeping a diary makes you happier. Guardian. February 15, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/feb/15/psychology-usa. Accessed April 21, 2020.
3. Harvard Medical School. Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier. Accessed April 21, 2020.