Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, families and friends gather around tables to give thanks and to feast. Before the turkey and mashed potatoes, some will say one thing they are grateful for. In recent years, research has shown that being grateful affects our physical and emotional health.
C. Nathan DeWall, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, conducted a study in 2011 with a handful of colleagues. Their study, titled “A Grateful Heart is a Non-violent Heart,” explored how gratitude can lessen aggression.
“It may prove fruitful to identify emotions that reduce aggression,” the study reported. “Gratitude, a positive emotion associated with greater generosity and empathy, can cause lower aggression.”
According to healthline.com, aggression is a natural response to some situations, but too much can be dangerous and lead to feelings of irritability and restlessness. These feelings will spark other negative feelings and can cause stress.
DeWall and his team reported in their study that giving thanks lowers daily aggression, hurt feelings and overall sensitivity.
In 2008, an Australian photographer, Hailey Bartholomew, did not feel as though she was enjoying her life. On her website, she said she met with a nun who told her the secret to happiness was “reflection and gratitude.” The nun encouraged her to record something for which she was grateful for ten days.
This 10 day experiment quickly turned into a year-long project where she took pictures and wrote notes to record the things she was grateful for. This project was entitled 365 Grateful.
“It changed my life in ways I never could have expected,” Bartholomew said in a video on her website 365grateful.com.
She also said in her video she began to notice things that she had never seen, like the romance of her husband or little beetles that would land on her. She said it made her aware of her surroundings.
Through her posts, many people have joined into this movement, and their stories can be found on her blog. There, she also invites everyone to attempt the 365 Grateful project and see how it changes their lives.
Laurel Hensch, a freshman studying business management, learned about Bartholomew’s project in 2015 and decided to try it the following year. She said she was not completely consistent in 2016, so she made a new Instagram account and started it again in 2017.
“Knowing I am going to be posting that day helps me keep my eyes open for things I am grateful for,” Hensch said. “I don’t want to get to 11 o’clock and take some random picture of my dorm room and add a generic caption. I like to be real about life.”
She said it helps her see the tender mercies of God in her life, and it has helped her with thoughts of depression.