Gratitude: Science or Woo Woo?

Hardly a day goes by where the word ‘gratitude’ or a part of its practice isn’t in our purview.

Gratitude is a powerful antidote that keeps many of us sane in crazy times – in these times! But is gratitude a thing capable of being measured in its endowment? Gratitude has been called the Ultimate Spiritual Practice throughout the generations. A simple ‘Thank you” is the purest form of gratitude.

A very brief history of gratitude.

Some form of gratitude was acknowledged and evidenced way back to the primates. How do we know that creatures who couldn’t say “Thank you” experienced gratitude? Reciprocity. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. This is one way to express gratitude, and primates did it all the time, grooming each other throughout their days. Perhaps our understanding of gratitude and a more formalized study of it originated from the study of primates.

Today gratitude appears in our generosity, compassion and happiness. The more we hang out in gratitude, the more joy and positive emotions we experience.

Is gratitude worthy or just woo woo?

How you look at gratitude may depend on how you came to know it yourself. Personally, I learned about gratitude through a spiritual practice. It was only when I started looking at its effect on seniors did I see the more scientific side of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude has the capacity to change and strengthen the brain in positive ways. It increases important neurochemicals in our brains. Research has shown that gratitude can improve well-being, strengthen relationships, reduce stress, and increase resilience. Blood pressure, heart rate, and wellness in general are positively impacted when gratitude is present. We’ve seen the positive effects for decades.

Some question gratitude’s worthiness when it is impossible to measure its effect on our ability to see good in the world or when it strengthens our connections with others. It’s said gratitude squeezes out negative feelings. We know it does these things, but we can’t measure how much in a quantifiable way.

Both and neither

It’s great when something like gratitude can measurably improve our lives. Just because there are situations where we can’t measure that improvement, doesn’t mean it’s just woo-woo. Let’s call a truce and call it both science and woo-woo. Or, better yet, let’s not label it all. Let’s just let its positivity flourish.

Whether you think of gratitude as science or woo woo, the use of its practice can be powerfully enriching.

How has gratitude impacted your life?
Let this serve as a little reminder about the comfort and strengthening it can provide even when there might not be scientific studies to prove the point.