Nov 23, 2022 - Health

Axios Finish Line: The power of active gratitude

Illustration of an arrow in the middle of a heart-shaped target

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

Whether we spend our time dwelling on things we're grateful for or noodling on things that upset us matters.

🖼️ The big picture: Shifting our attitudes to focus on giving thanks — not just during the holiday — has a direct link to our wellbeing.

💼 Case in point: In one study, psychologists recruited a group of participants and asked half to take time weekly to write a few sentences about things they were grateful for from that week. The other half wrote about irritations or complaints.

  • After 10 weeks, the group that centered on gratitude felt more optimistic about life than their counterparts.
  • The gratitude group saw physical changes as well. They exercised more and made fewer doctor visits than the group that focused on the negative aspects of life.

Another study by researchers from Kent State University tested the effect of writing letters of gratitude to other people.

  • The results were clear: Taking the time to say thank you in writing made people happier, more satisfied with life and even decreased symptoms of depression.

The bottom line: We feel grateful for all sorts of blessings in life, but most of us rarely take the time to think about those things — let alone write them down.

  • But studies show that taking an active approach to gratitude can have tangible and lasting effects on our mental wellbeing.
  • Try it!
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