Exploring the scientific benefits of gratitude with apps

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Andrew Johnson

More stories from Andrew Johnson

Being grateful starts with practice and dedication

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Exploring the scientific benefits of gratitude with apps

Screen capture: Get Gratitude website

Screen capture: Get Gratitude website

Screen capture: Get Gratitude website

When it comes to gratitude, there is more than meets the eye. For most, the concept of gratitude simply means “to be grateful,” a general and wide-scoping definition. While technically correct, employing true gratitude in real life requires a more focused definition. Gratitude, it seems, is a key—perhaps the key—to feeling more satisfied with life. It improves a person’s relationships with loved ones. It’s even good for their heart. To truly be grateful, one must actively practice finding specific things or moments in their lives that impact them in a positive manner.

“I think it’s important to realize what I am grateful for because I spend a lot of time thinking about the stuff that is a problem in my life, and so it’s good to look at the other side and be happy,” senior Gabi Seifert said.

In the “Science of Gratitude”, a one-hour radio special narrated by Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon, Sarandon combines scientific research with personal stories illustrating the benefits and obstacles to feeling truly grateful. Throughout the hour, she gives practical insights into how to cultivate more gratitude in a person’s life, their families, and beyond. While difficult scientific studies show that being grateful physically rewires the brain. A research study from Indiana University called “The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity” consisted of 43 people who suffered from anxiety or depression writing letters of thanks to their loved ones and undergoing brain scans three months later. After, they found “long lasting neural effects” from the brains of each participant and more of an inclination to continue practicing gratitude outside of the study. Conscious Lifestyle reinforces the research by emphasizing the benefits of practicing gratitude like increased energy and decreased stress. For Adeline DeHarpporte, practicing gratitude means appreciative and charitability.

“I think if you have practice gratitude then you can be more appreciative of the things you have and can be more giving and thoughtful to the people who don’t have as much as you,” said Adeline Adeline DeHarpporte.

Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to integrate gratitude into the everyday lifestyle. A gratitude journal is an accessible, inexpensive, and rewarding practice that has incredible physiological and psychological benefits. It’s a shift in a person’s mindset and energy that will also attract more positive experiences into their life. While gratitude can help adopt a fresh perspective on life, it’s not always easy to automatically shift into a state of gratitude. Some sources even suggest that humans are hardwired to focus on the negative, so training yourself to shift into a state of gratitude every day can take practice.

However, keeping a journal can be cumbersome in a technology-dominated world. Fortunately, phones offer a virtual platform to practice being grateful. Whether in the form of guided app purchased from the App Store or a more free-flowing independent journal in the virtual notes section of a phone, there are plenty of options people have to stay active in their pursuit of gratitude. You don’t need to be in one place at one time to keep a physical record, either; because phones are mobile and are with their owners at virtually all times, they will be available for use whenever inspiration strikes for the user.

In any case, being actively aware of how grateful you are for the things and those that are meaningful to you is essential to maximizing the happiness you can obtain during the inevitable ups and downs of life. Specifically, apps offer a prime opportunity to spark productive and reflective thought.

On a related note, using online apps is one of these great ways to bring gratitude to life, and these three are the best out there. First, Grateful: A Gratitude Journal enlists a classic methodology to actualize gratitude. A mobile journal, the app allows the user to write down things they are thankful for in a customized setting. The app features a daily prompt at the end of each day, such as a “what made you smile today?” or “what made today a good day?” to inspire users to think deeply and critically about who or what made their experiences worthwhile. It also allows users to write their own prompts and share them with other users. The app is free, but a premium version can be purchased for an additional fee.

Next, the app Get Gratitude takes a slightly different take at practicing gratitude than Grateful: A Gratitude Journal. While Grateful: A Gratitude Journal promises a more independent and free-flowing approach to keeping a gratitude journal, the Get Gratitude experience emphasizes a more scientific benefit for being grateful. The app says that by spending just 5 minutes a day using the app, the user’s brain will be methodically rewired until they reap the benefits to their happiness and overall morale. Their mission is simple: they want their users to “get gratitude,” which is done by using their online journal platform.

Lastly, the app Headspace takes a markedly different approach to earn gratitude than either of the previous two apps mentioned. Instead of offering an online journal option, Headspace features an experience dedicated to supporting meditation to incite gratefulness. The app uses the mindfulness and the subconscious to help users think about the things that matter most to them, and they claim that for only a few minutes a day, their meditation system allows its users to decrease their stress, sleep healthier, and focus more, which in turn, leads to stronger reflection periods. A small fee is required to use the app but is well worth the price.

Actualizing gratitude is what leads to actual improvement of morale and thoughts of happiness. Each of these apps are great vehicles to do so and are all available online.

 

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