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Can You Cope Better?

There's a simple way.

WebMD Feature

July 3, 2000 -- This evening, in homes all over America, men, women, and children will be scribbling lists beginning with the words "Today I am grateful for ...":


"Today I am grateful for an easy commute to work."
"Today I am grateful for Lite French Silk ice cream."
"Today I am grateful I didn't light up a cigarette."

Gratitude lists and journals have been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and popularized by Sara Ban Breathnach's bestseller Simple Abundance. Indeed, the concept is so trendy that in a 1998 Gallup poll more than 90% of Americans said that expressing gratitude makes them happy.

As list-keeper Lisa Krause says, "I still have bad moods and disappointments. But if I keep a list of little things that give me a lift, it's amazing how the good feelings just grow."

But only now are behavioral psychologists starting to ask if there is really something to this "I'm grateful for ..." business.

Michael McCullough, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, together with University of California, Davis, psychology professor Bob Emmons, PhD, have launched a series of gratitude studies. They're looking at, among other things, whether giving thanks can ease the emotional burdens of people with breast cancer and neuromuscular disorders.

And though their research is just beginning, the early results look good -- so good that McCullough will host the first-ever conference on gratitude's positive health effects at Southern Methodist University, Texas, in October 2000.