Is the practice of noting down a few things that you are grateful for each day really help you feel better?

A gratitude journal is a diary of things for which one is grateful. Gratitude journals are used by individuals who wish to focus their attention on the positive things in their lives.

Gratitude, the feeling of appreciation or thanks, has gained a lot of attention in the field of positive psychology. Some studies have found that those who are habitually grateful are happier than those who are not.

Gratitude journal - Wikipedia

One of the (highly cited) studies mentioned there, Emmons and McCullough (2003) claims that "gratitude listing" had benefits in a (causal) experiment:

The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

Has this finding been replicated in other experiments?

  • 4
    I wonder how to interpret a claim like this? I mean, presumably a "gratitude journal" isn't for everyone, but then it seems reasonable to assume that people who dislike the idea would simply discard it, potentially leading to self-selection bias where people who think it'll help them are the ones who're more likely to try it. And if this is the case, then should we interpret the claim as applying to a fair sample of the population, or to that self-selected demographic?
    – Nat
    Jun 1, 2019 at 13:04
  • 3
    Added notability source
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 1, 2019 at 14:45
  • @Sklivvz: The way that's phrased in the quote could just mean correlation not necessarily causation (as the title of this question implies/wonders). Jun 2, 2019 at 4:04
  • @Fizz, sure, but the fact that Wikipedia says the claim is being studied shows notability
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 2, 2019 at 4:34
  • 3
    @Oddthinking: Highly cited psychology papers are sometimes highly cited because they turn out controversial or even wrong... So one highly cited paper does not prove the case. Jun 2, 2019 at 5:30


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