Nathan Deichert, Black Hills State University – Impact of Gratitude on Stress

nathan_deichert_printThe holidays are a stressful time.

Nathan Deichert, assistant professor of psychology at Black Hills State University, determines gratitude can help manage some of that anxiety.

Dr. Deichert earned his Ph.D. in Experimental Social-Health Psychologist from Kent State University in 2007 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Black Hills State University in South Dakota.  Dr. Deichert’s research program focuses on the relationship between social relationships, emotions, and health outcomes.  Currently, research in his lab is examining how the experience of gratitude promotes psychological and physical well-being with a particular focus on how gratitude alters people’s reactions to stressful events.

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Impact of Gratitude on Stress

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The experience of positive emotions are viewed as important by people from cultures all over the world.  In fact, research suggests such emotional experiences are rated as being more important than money!  But aside from making us feel good, what do positive emotions do for us?

Researchers in the field of positive psychology have been examining that question and have found some interesting answers, particularly, in relation to physical health and well-being.  For example, using positive emotion words in one’s personal writings has been linked to living longer, healthier lives.  While there are different types of positive emotions, one that has been receiving a lot of attention recently is the experience of gratitude. 

Gratitude has been defined in a number of ways, including the emotional reactions people experience when receiving something of value from someone to a more general sense of appreciation.  Along with members of my research team, I’m currently examining the health impacts of gratitude, in particular, we are testing whether being grateful can alter people’s physical and psychological reactions to stressful events.  Results of our research suggest that gratitude does just that.  Specifically, we found that people who reported having a greater sense of appreciation for what others have done for them showed lower levels of depressive symptoms and also reported being less bothered by physical symptoms during stress when compared to people who had less appreciation for others. 

Our research is part of a growing body of studies that is helping us to understand how gratitude can help us adjust to stress and ultimately influence our physical health.  Understanding how and why gratitude affects not only our emotions, but also how we think about and interpret our experiences, could help us develop strategies to manage stress more effectively. 

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