Surprising Results of new Gratitude Study

Originally published in the Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter on LinkedIn – with insight-giving Stories from my Transformational Retreats here in the South of France

Bowled over by the benefits I experienced when I started to keep a gratitude journal many years ago, I still do so today: every morning and every evening I spend 10-15 minutes reminding myself about everything and everyone that I am grateful for in my life. I encourage all my transformational retreat guests to start a gratitude journal too – if they are not keeping one already. It is an integral part of the Meraki Miracle Morning ritual that we follow at the beginning of each retreat day.

A new study published this year has revealed that writing a gratitude letter can be even more beneficial than keeping a gratitude journal, especially a bullet-point journal.

I have long suspected that I get more benefit from journalling about the people I am grateful for in my life, rather than possessions, circumstances, events etc. so this does not come altogether as a surprise.

Three researchers from the University of California, Riverside, wanted to determine which gratitude practice results in the most psychological as well as physical benefit.

They recruited 958 Australian adults and divided them into 6 groups. Participants were assigned one of five gratitude activities that varied by type and format, or an active control activity (i.e. keeping track of daily activities). The five gratitude activities included writing a gratitude letter to someone (without sending it), writing a gratitude essay about something they were thankful for (not someone), and writing lists of people or things they were grateful for – participants completed their assigned activities daily for a week.

Before, immediately after, and one week later, the participants filled out surveys that measured their overall well-being.

Among all those practices, writing a gratitude letter to someone appeared to be the most beneficial. The researchers concluded that “writing a gratitude letter appears to be a more psychologically rich experience than simply writing a list of people or things for which one is grateful. Furthermore, gratitude—especially when expressed in narrative form—can be leveraged to enhance subjective well-being and other positive psychological outcomes.”

The researchers also found that longer writing activities – letters and essays – seemed to be more beneficial than writing short lists, like the popular BUJO’s (bullet-point journals.)

Further studies may be needed to confirm these findings, but I have decided to incorporate their results into my weekly practice right away. My journal is already more than a bullet-point journal: if I list something/someone, I also add the reason why I am grateful for the person/possession/experience. In addition, I am going to start writing a gratitude letter each Sunday evening. It will brighten up Sunday evenings and help me to start the week in a positive frame of mind.

What do you think? Worth trying?

#gratitude #gratitudejournal #gratitudeletter

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Ref. Regan, A., Walsh, L.C. & Lyubomirsky, S. Are Some Ways of Expressing Gratitude More Beneficial Than Others? Results From a Randomized Controlled Experiment. Affec Sci (2022)

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