Gratitudology Part 2

What does gratitude have to do with plastic surgery? For me it means that I get to do something I love for a living, and make a positive impact on people’s lives, and I am thankful for that. Thankfulness has its own rewards, and gratitude is becoming something of a hot topic now for psychology and biomedical research. (It seems only a matter of time before someone calls this new field “gratitudology.”)There’s even a therapy called “gratitude intervention.” Last November I posted a piece on the scientifically proven benefits of generosity and gratitude, and so I decided to see what’s new.


One recent study from the University College Cork in Ireland examined the effects of gratitude intervention on well-being, using standardized scales of stress and happiness.[i] Participants were randomized to either a “wait list” control group or the intervention protocol, which was done online 4 times a week.  After only 3 weeks, significant improvements were noted.


Another one, from the medical school at the University of California San Diego (my alma mater), explored the role of gratitude on both spiritual and physical well-being in men and women with congestive heart failure.[ii] They found that expressing more gratitude was associated with better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers (a measure of severity of cardiac disease.) Taking it a step further, they found that “gratitude fully mediated the relationship between spiritual wellbeing and sleep quality.” The authors concluded that interventions to increase gratitude might be of clinical value for heart failure patients.


Gratitude affects the brain too, according to a study from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California.[iii] They used functional MRI scans while inducing feelings of gratitude through emotive stories. Specific regions of the brain lit up, overlapping areas known to be active in “moral cognition” and empathy.


So it appears that gratitude makes you happier, a generous heart makes it healthier, and feeling appreciative makes your brain work better. More things to be thankful for!


“Gratitude is the mother of all virtues.”


  • Cicero

[i] O’ Leary K, Dockray S. The effects of two novel gratitude and mindfulness interventions on well-being.


J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Apr;21(4):243-5


[ii] Mills PJ, Redwine L, Wilson K, Pung MA, Chinh K, Greenberg BH, Lunde O, Maisel A, Raisinghani A, Wood A, Chopra D. The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spiritual Clin Pract (Wash D C ). 2015 Mar;2(1):5-17.


[iii] Fox GR, Kaplan J, Damasio H, Damasio A.Neural correlates of gratitude. Front Psychol. 2015 Sep 30;6:1491.

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