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Date: Jul 23, 2007
Giving Thanks, Gaining a Positive Outlook
Hofstra psychologist finds that students who express gratitude report considerable happiness, optimism, and school satisfactionHofstra University, Hempstead, NY – Students who counted their blessings and acknowledged the things they were grateful for reported higher levels of well-being than those who did not, a study by a Hofstra psychologist found.
Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D., an assistant professor with primary responsibilities in the Psy.D. program in School-Community Psychology, undertook a study with Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, psychology department and Half Hollow Hills School District psychologist William J. Sefick on the effects of gratitude in youth. They followed 221 middle school students for five weeks, randomly assigning 11 classrooms to one of three conditions: gratitude, hassles and a control group.
Students in the gratitude condition were asked to record up to five things they were grateful for since the previous day. While some of their blessings were a bit idiosyncratic (e.g., being thankful for Star Wars books), caring and supportive relationships were the most common theme. Moreover, there was a tendency for students in the gratitude condition to report being grateful for their education, health, and activities (mainly sports). Students in the hassles condition received the same directions as the gratitude condition, though focusing on irritants.
The study results, due to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of School Psychology, showed that counting blessings in adolescence was related to enhanced gratitude, optimism, and life satisfaction, as well as lower levels of negative feelings, according to Dr. Froh. Furthermore, students in the gratitude condition tended to be less sick as they reported fewer physical complaints compared with both the hassles and control groups.
“Expressing gratitude was not only associated with appreciating close relationships; it was also related to feeling better about school,” Dr. Froh said. “Indeed, compared with students in the hassles and control groups, students who counted blessing reported greater satisfaction with school both immediately after the two-week exercise and at the three-week follow-up.” According to Dr.Froh, “Overall, our findings suggest that gratitude may be one way that youth can enhance both their psychological and physical well-being.”
Dr. Froh is a New York State certified school psychologist and New York State licensed psychologist, Associate Fellow of the Albert Ellis Institute, and serves on the Editorial Board for The Journal of Positive Psychology and Psychology in the Schools. Prior to joining Hofstra, he practiced as a school psychologist in the Shoreham-Wading River, Hewlett -Woodmere, and Half Hollow Hills School Districts. He was also an adjunct psychology professor of psychology at St. Joseph's College, Patchogue.
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