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The Science of Gratitude

How and why does Gratitude work?

Gratitude is an easy and effective way of retraining your brain. If you focus on the good, soon you will see more, enjoy more, appreciate more…

Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with GREATER HAPPINESS.



Lights up the Brain’s Reward Pathway

Thinking about other people doing nice things floods the brain with positive chemicals and sparks brain activity critical to sleep, orgasms, mood regulation and metabolism.

Lessens Anxiety & Depression Symptoms

Challenging negative thought patterns, helps to calm the anxious and boost the moods of those who are depressed.


Shifts the Heart Rhythm

Increases coherence of body functions, which facilitates higher cognitive functions, creating emotional stability and facilitating states of calm.

Increases Heart Variability

Heart patients who practice gratitude show better moods, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.

social connection

Increases Social Connection

You can feel greater connection and feel more satisfied with friends, family, school, community and yourself.

Increases Empathy & Compassion

The more thankful we feel, the more likely we are to act pro-socially toward others, causing them to feel grateful and setting up a beautiful virtuous cascade.

immune system

Improves Physical Health

Strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains.

Increases Resilience

Helps you bounce back from stressful events and helps you deal with adversity by acting as a buffer against internalising symptoms.


Increases Productivity

Feeling grateful to others makes us inspired and uplifted—these feelings of elevation bolster motivation to become healthier, more generous people but also better, more productive workers.

Based on research by: R. Emmons, The University of California, USA; M. Mcculough, University of Miami, USA; P. J. Mills, The University of California, USA; R. Zahn, National Institutes of Health, Cognitive Neuroscience Section, USA & The University of Manchester, UK; P. Kini, Indiana University, USA; E. Simon-Thomas, The Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, USA; J. Froh, Hofstra University, USA; M. A. Stoeckel, American University, USA; A. Wood, University of Stirling, UK; Institute of HeartMath, USA; K. Layousa, California State University, USA.

Some more research…

Gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health.

Robert Emmons, the University of California & Michael McCullough, Professor of Psychology, University of Miami

Keeping a diary of three blessings worked much better to boost happiness than recalling three times when a person felt a sense of pride in his or her own accomplishments… What we believe is happening is that it makes people look for the good in their life more, so it trains their attention to more good things.

Phillip Watkins, psychologist, Eastern Washington University

Simply saying “thank you” to a spouse can create a virtuous cycle of gratitude, where each person feels more appreciated and happy. It will help you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, plus help you deal with adversity and build a stronger relationship.

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology

Gratitude makes a person less materialistic, thus kinder to the environment.

According to a study presented at an American Psychological Association convention

Dozens of studies have found that gratitude can improve well-being, and can even help people curb depression and anxiety, improve cholesterol, and get better sleep.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology, the University of California

A study on the effects of gratitude on depression, coping, and suicide showed that gratitude is a protective factor when it comes to suicidal ideation in stressed and depressed individuals.
Dr Karolina Krysinska, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention, The University of New South Wales, Australia

Research shows that grateful people are happier and the quality of their health and emotional state of being can be transformed by being more appreciative. Studies performed by HeartMath clearly show improved heart rhythmic function, stress reduction and clearer thought processes resulting from being grateful.

International Pediatric Chiropractic Association

Those who practice gratitude are more patient during economic decision-making, leading to better decisions and less pressure from the desire for short-term gratification. 

David DeSteno, professor of psychology, Northeastern University, Boston


In patients with asymptomatic heart failure, who practiced gratitude for 8 weeks, they were found to have better moods, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health. The study showed an increase in heart rate variability, considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk, while they wrote in a gratitude journal.

Paul J. Mills, professor of family medicine and public health, the University of California

After eight weeks of practice, brain scans of individuals who practice gratitude have stronger brain structure for social cognition and empathy, as well as the part of the brain that processes reward.

Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the science director of the Greater Good Science Center

By practising gratitude you can feel more connected to your friends, family, feel better about your school, have higher levels of optimism, increased life satisfaction, and decreased negative feelings.

Jeffrey Froh, associate professor, Hofstra University

Gratitude helps us notice the world around us, and what our blessings are. We start taking less things for granted and feel more awake and alive.

Dr. kerry howells, university of tasmania, Australia

Journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance your long-term happiness by over 10% .


The combination of diaphragmatic breathing along with self-induced positive emotions (like actively practicing gratitude) increase the coherence (interconnection) of bodily processes, which is reflected in the pattern of the heart’s rhythm, by which the heart-rate slows down and is evenly measured. This shift in the heart rhythm in turn plays an important role in facilitating higher cognitive functions, creating emotional stability and facilitating states of calm.

Institute of HeartMath, Boulder Creek, California

In a study of adolescents gratitude has been found to protect children of ill parents from anxiety and depression, acting as a buffer against internalising symptoms. Those who are able to focus on the positives in their lives can more easily deal with difficult situations.

Dr Maggie A. Stoeckel, American University, Washington