Photo by Sun StarRobert Emmons was shocked. The University of California psychologist found that after just ten weeks, people who kept a gratitude journal were 25 percent happier than people who didn’t. People who were reminded to say “thank you” at least once a day were healthier and spent more time exercising. As he writes in an essay for the Greater Good Science Center, “This is a massive difference. The gratitude group participants also experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups.”

Researchers even got similar results in a study of adults with neuromuscular disorders, many of whom suffered from fatigue, slowly progressive muscle weakness, and pain. The 2007 study provided a unique opportunity to determine if the gratitude intervention could help improve the well-being of these people coping with a chronic physical disease.

Participants showed significantly more positive emotions and satisfaction with life than a control group, while also showing fewer negative emotions. They also felt more optimism about the upcoming week and felt closer and more connected to others, even though many lived alone and did not increase their actual contact time with others.

Based on these dramatic findings, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center worked with Emmons this year to launch the project, “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude“, with $5.6 million in funding from the John Templeton Foundation.

The general goals of this initiative are to:

-Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
-Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities;
-Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

This month the Center launched a web-based digital gratitude journal at designed to track and promote the practice of gratitude worldwide while serving as an invaluable source of scientific data on gratitude. Register on the webpage and start your own journal. You will be improving your life and adding to the database of what makes the world grateful.

(READ more from the Berkeley Greater Good)

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