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  • Back in Ancient Rome, the philosopher Cicero described gratitude as the mother of all virtues.

  • This concept of being thankful has been stressed in religion and philosophy for a long time.

  • Back in 1820 Scottish philosopher Thomas Brown defined gratitude asthat delightful emotion of love to him who has conferred a kindness on us.”

  • But scientifically, gratitude doesn’t qualify as a basic emotion like joy, sadness or anger.

  • There’s no universal facial expression for it. As an emotion, gratitude is a little hard to define.

  • Today the Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude asthe quality or condition of being thankful;

  • the appreciation of an inclination to return kindness.” And weve only really started

  • to study gratitude scientifically in the past 30 years.

  • In a 2015 study, participants were asked to imagine how they would feel if a complete

  • stranger saved their life. I mean, how would you feel? The participants had to rate how

  • grateful they were to strangers who provided them with gifts of food and clothingall

  • while they had their brain scanned in an fMRI machine.

  • Researchers found their ratings of gratitude positively correlated with activity in brain areas associated with fairness and value judgements.

  • It makes sense because gratitude is often thought of as a moral emotion.

  • There are even benefits in just noting how grateful you are. Another study asked people

  • to write down three things that went well that day and why for one week. At the end

  • of the week people were slightly happier than at the beginning, and over time, their happiness

  • scores kept improving. After one month they were 5% happier and after six months they

  • were 9% happier. Just from one week of writing a journal.

  • A similar study with participants with heart disease found that keeping a gratitude journal

  • increased their heart health and quality of sleep, perhaps because it reduces stress.

  • Counting your blessingsquite literally makes people happier and healthier.

  • And some people are even hardwired to be more thankful. In a recent study of 77 couples,

  • those with a particular genetic variation that affects the secretion of oxytocin expressed

  • more gratitude towards their partners. Oxytocin is thought to play a big role in promoting

  • close social bonds, so gratitude is part of the glue that keeps these relationships together.

  • So if you think it’s the thought that counts, think again. Science shows there are some

  • pretty amazing benefits to our mind, body and relationships when we say those two small words

  • thank you.

Back in Ancient Rome, the philosopher Cicero described gratitude as the mother of all virtues.

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The Amazing Effects of Gratitude

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    Adam Huang posted on 2015/12/14
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