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Key to Happiness? Giving Thanks


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 — (ABC News: Technology) –



OPINION
By LEE DYE



Dec. 1, 2010





If you make a list of the most important words in the English language, be sure to include the word “thanks” near the top.




Researchers at several institutions have come up with evidence that simply showing gratitude may be among the most powerful — and underused — forces in our lives. It can strengthen relationships, and make us happier and more satisfied with our lives.



That sounds like a high order for what seems like a simple gesture, but there is compelling evidence that expressing gratitude regularly can change a person’s life.



And while you might believe that showing thanks is a personality trait and thus difficult to change, some scientists, including psychology professor Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, believes we can all learn how to do it better.



“It is a [psychological] trait,” Emmons said via e-mail, “but unlike something like extraversion-introversion, it is not fixed in one’s biological makeup.



“Gratitude is an emotional reaction and a way of looking at the world,” he noted. “We have some control over this aspect. Gratitude is a sustainable approach to life that can be freely chosen for oneself. It is choosing to focus on blessings rather than burdens, gifts rather than curses, and people report that it transforms their lives.”


Practicing Gratitude Can Transform a Life


But it’s not necessarily easy. Someone who is “agreeable, optimistic or empathic” will find it easier than someone who is “disagreeable, pessimistic or narcissistic,” Emmons said, but he maintains that six months of “concerted effort and intentional practice” can have a dramatic impact on how one expresses gratitude and how that can transform a life.



Emmons didn’t initially choose this course of study. When he was a grad student he applied for a research assistant position with a professor who was studying happiness. So, of course, he had to immerse himself in happiness.



“I was not especially interested in happiness at the time,” he said. “I didn’t think it was very interesting. Thought it was dumb, actually. Turns out to be the best investment I ever made.

My research on happiness led me to focus on gratitude because gratitude was the forgotten factor in happiness research. Just ignored. Neglected. Now we know better.”



To view the original article, click here: http://feeds.abcnews.com/click.phdo?i=2771ddcf3983d461a306d5c68ba65526


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