An attitude adjustment - from griping to gratitude - could have profound health benefits for teens, a new study says. Researchers from California State University measured the gratitude “levels” of 700 10- to 14-year-olds, then checked back four years later.
Compared to the least grateful kids, those who were the most grateful had:
- gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
- become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
- become 17 percent happier and more hopeful about their lives;
- experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.
Positive-psychology researchers have been looking at the effects of gratitude in adults for years, but this is one of the first studies to look at it in teens. The good news for parents is that helping kids develop gratitude may have fairly quick results.
In one study of adults, those who wrote every day about things they were grateful for felt more optimistic and better about their lives 10 weeks later - compared to people asked to write about things that bothered them or about fairly neutral events in their lives. The grateful group also exercised more and went to the doctor less often. In another study, by leading gratitude researcher Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, people wrote and personally delivered a letter of thanks to someone who hadn’t been properly thanked for a kindness in the past. The study volunteers felt a big increase in happiness that lasted for a month.