Thanks in large part to University of California at Davis professor Robert Emmons, the field of “Positive Psychology” has grown by leaps and bounds since the early 2000s.1 Positive Psychology is the scientific study of gratitude and its benefits, in fields ranging from anatomy to sociology, affecting both the quality and the length of a person’s life. I love how they are studying this, all apart from any religious, philosophical, or spiritual assumptions!

Gratitude is not just a personal cluster of good feelings that improves our quality of life. Emmons says it can actually improve one’s workplace, our effectiveness at work, and even increases the cognitive ability to contribute to job performance. In an online piece this month, Emmons shared study results that show gratitude helps at work in three ways, by:

+ Reducing excessive entitlement, when people feel they deserve more than others, such as pay, promotions, or praise. A grateful attitude is the antidote to such annoying attitudes and behaviors by one’s coworkers, and even lowers levels of hostility and aggression.

+ Facilitating better sleep, the body’s essential restorative activity. A Rand Corporation study reported that sleep deprivation cost U.S. companies more than $400 billion a year in lost productivity: more than two percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

+ Allowing a person to contribute more. Considerable research has shown that gratitude drives “prosocial” (kind and helpful) behavior – even more so than do happiness or empathy. The faculty at the University of Zurich found that grateful people are likely to be “idea creators,” successful in developing new and innovative ideas, and reaching solutions in unconventional ways.

What wonderful discoveries! Not only is gratitude a faithful response to God, it is also, as Emmons says, “the ultimate performance-enhancing substance”!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – For more about Emmons and Positive Psychology, check out the Greater Good Science Center.

See also: The Gratitude Effect