Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving: Expressing Gratitude Enhances our Well-Being

Source: Grisson Air Reserve Base
For past Thanksgiving holidays, I've blogged about some interesting research regarding the benefits of expressing gratitude. For instance, last year, I wrote about experimental research conducted by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough that demonstrated the benefits associated with counting our blessings.   

This year, I'd like to share the findings from another important study about gratitude.  Several years ago, Sheung-Tak Cheng, Pui Ki Tsui, John Lam published a paper titled, "Improving Mental Health in Health Care Practitioners: Randomized Controlled Trial of a Gratitude Intervention."  In explaining the meaning and impact of their research, the scholars wrote, "This study revealed that an intervention involving writing gratitude events led to a reduction in perceived stress and depressive symptoms among health care practitioners. It is possible that such positive effects among these professionals can also lead to an improvement in both productivity and quality of patient services."

What precisely did these researchers do in their study?  102 physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists participated in this research project.  The health care practitioners wrote diaries about work-related events twice per week for four weeks.  The scholars directed some participants to describe events about which they were thankful.  They directed others to describe something that annoyed them.  Naturally, the scholars included a control condition in their study.   They found that the gratitude diary entries often described receiving assistance from colleagues or benefiting in some other way from a constructive relationship with a co-worker.   The scholars found that writing about gratitude reduced perceived stress and depressive symptoms among the healthcare practitioners.  In short, expressing gratitude seemed to have a positive effect on the workers' well-being.  The scholars speculate that these positive effects might actually enhance the care of patients, though they do not measure that in this particular study.  

We often hear about the importance of self-reflection.  Some leaders take a few moments at the end of each day or week to reflect upon what they have accomplished recently, as well as the mistakes that they have made.  This type of reflection can enhance learning and lead to continuous improvement.  These studies suggest that these moments of self-reflection ought to also include some time for considering those things and people for which we feel very grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I'm certainly grateful to those who take the time to read this blog! 

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