An ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ Keeps People Feeling Hopeful as They Age, Study Finds

Gratitude has become something of a buzz word in the last few years.

Practising gratitude is a common exercise lauded by those in the wellness industry but, it’s not actually a “woo woo” practice, with the evidence behind the exercise stacking up.

In fact, a study out of Harvard found that those who wrote about gratitude each week for 10 weeks were more optimistic about their own lives than those who didn’t practice gratitude.

A new study of older people in Japan has found similar outcomes, especially when it comes to the uncertainty of ageing.

Dr Iza Kavedzija, from the University of Exeter, studied participants in their 80s and 90s who lived in the city of Osaka. According to Science Daily, by maintaining an “attitude of gratitude” and accepting the unpredictability faced with ageing, they remained engaged and optimistic.

Dr Kavedzija explained: “As people move through life, through their later years, many experience a sense of loss. But this time for them also offers opportunities to reflect more on life, with a heightened realisation of their interconnections with others. If one habitually invokes the involvement of others and their role in one’s life, one is reminded how much other people have helped them, in countless small and more substantive ways. The same events seem different when one focuses on how others have helped.

“An attitude of gratitude was embedded in older peoples’ recollections of the past, but also allowed them to think about the present in a hopeful way. A world in which one has received much goodwill from others is a different place than one in which one has experienced loss, even if the facts of life are the same.

“Gratitude in Japan can be seen to a large extent as a recognition of how much one relies on others as one moves through life. Gratitude highlights feelings of interdependence in the social world.”

Many participants agreed that they wouldn’t be the person they are without others in their life and used the phrase ‘arigatai’, which translates to “I am grateful”.

According to Dr Kavedzija, while people in Japan might not use the word ‘happy’ very often, they do mention gratitude frequently and it is an important component of living long lives.

“Through appreciation, dependence on others is not seen as simply a burden or a potential source of embarrassment, but also as moving and deeply meaningful,” Dr Kavedzijasaid. “Meaningful relationships and encounters with others comprise a valuable foundation for what Japanese people call ikigai, or that which makes life worth living.”

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