We all know someone who is the eternal optimist-just bubbling over with gratitude regardless of circumstances.
A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Those people have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions-particularly love.“
Being born with the gratitude gene would be dandy, but for the rest of us we can choose to practice gratitude and enjoy the benefits of increased happiness as a result. Not just “feel good” pop psychology, here’s an example of a study exploring the idea of gratitude. Researchers’ randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for. The other group listed the negatives, the hassles. Ten weeks later, it was the first group who registered increased life satisfaction. Other studies show the same pattern. We can increases our happiness / gratitude by being grateful.
Again, even if genetics didn’t bless us with the grateful gene, we can create a change in our brain through gratitude. Gratitude fires up the part of our brain that regulates stress and the part that creates the sensation of pleasure. So science and common sense line up: keeping good things top of mind through gratitude makes us feel better than focusing on the negative. Another bonus of choosing to be grateful? It brings out the best in others.