3 New Scientific Reasons to Be Grateful for Being Grateful

By Eva Martin, MD of Elm Tree Medical Inc.

Happy Thanksgiving to my blogosphere friends and your families! I hope you are all recovering from an overdose of turkey and pumpkin pie. In honor of my favorite holiday, today’s blog post highlights three recent scientific studies that highlight how healthful and fulfilling it is to be grateful. I’ll start, of course, with a study about prenatal wellbeing and stress.

1. Prenatal Wellbeing

Pregnancy is a joyful time, but can also be a particularly stressful time. Stress during pregnancy is associated with complications, so what interventions promote wellbeing in pregnancy? Researchers in Ireland published a new study this October testing out mindfulness and gratitude-based interventions. 46 pregnant mamas joined the trial and completed online activities 4 times a week for 3 weeks. At the end of the trial, patients who practiced the mindfulness and gratitude activities reported lower stress and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Where do I sign up?

2. Emotional Intelligence

You may have heard of IQ’s friendlier cousin, “EQ” or emotional quotient, which is a measure of people’s ability to recognize emotions and use emotions appropriately. Your uncle who prominently noted that you had a third helping of mashed potatoes? Low EQ. Your aunt who politely made a joke of it to ease the tension? High EQ. A brand new study published this month in the Journal of Health Psychology showed that high EQ, a feeling of well-being, and gratitude are all correlated. The researchers believe that their data on 365 undergraduates shows that a person’s level of gratitude helps to determine how their EQ influences their feeling of well-being. In other words, if you have a high EQ, whether or not you show gratitude will help determine if you are a happy person.

3. Buffering Trauma

A new study from October 2016 sought to uncover the factors that can predict the psychological resilience of US military veterans. 2,157 veterans completed surveys in 2011 and again in 2013. Three groups emerged. 60% of the respondents had not been exposed to trauma and reported low distress. 13% had high exposure to trauma and reported distress. Finally, 27% of the veterans experienced high levels of trauma but reported low levels of distress. What differentiated the veterans who experienced low distress despite being exposed to traumatic situations? One of the key factors was gratitude. Veterans with high resilience to past trauma were more disposed towards feeling gratitude. You can read the study here to learn about the other positive and negative factors affecting resilience.

We Want to Hear From You! What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Do you have any dedicated gratitude practices like a gratitude journal? I, for one, am especially grateful for all of you wonderful readers!