November 24, 2014
Eathan Janney is working on his PhD in neuroscience at the City University of New York, and every hour his Google Glass pops up an alert:
“What are you grateful for?”
The answer varies; it could be family, it could be learning. One day, it was the produce at the farmer’s market:
Whatever it is, Janney speaks it out loud and Google Glass records it. An event is published to his timeline, creating a record of positivity and happiness that can brighten up a bad day.
“Since I have been using the app and doing gratitude exercises in general, I have a much better mood. Smiles come more naturally and I feel closer to the people in my life,” says Janney. “I have the perception that others enjoy being around me more. I have been able to stay focused on some difficult tasks reinforced by these feelings of gratitude.”
Janney is the creator of the Gratitude App for Glass, and he was inspired by some of the latest happiness science. For example, researchers now understand that happiness leads to success – not the other way around – and about 40% of our happiness can be attributed to intentional behaviors like gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most well-studied concepts in positive psychology, with a long list of benefits:
- More happiness and positive emotions: Gratitude makes you more optimistic, energetic, joyful, and satisfied with life.
- Better relationships: Grateful people are more cooperative, generous, compassionate, forgiving, and outgoing. They have fewer anti-social feelings and feel less lonely and isolated. Their friends rate them as more supportive, kind, and helpful, and grateful couples are closer, more satisfied in their relationships, and less likely to have broken up 9 months later.
- Fewer negative emotions: Grateful people have less envy, possessiveness, regret, resentment, and anxiety. Gratitude helps reduce the frequency and duration of depression, possibly by increasing our self-worth and teaching us that there’s some good in the world.
- Better health: Grateful people have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher good cholesterol, and lower bad cholesterol. They’re less bothered by aches and pains and take better care of their health, like exercising more. They also sleep longer and feel more refreshed in the morning.
- Better coping: Gratitude can reduce post-traumatic stress and help people see crises in a positive light, rather than disengaging or blaming themselves.
Many studies of gratitude ask people to keep a gratitude journal, from daily to weekly. I’m not sure that hourly gratitude has ever been studied, and it seems excessive – even three-times-a-week gratitude may be less effective than just once a week. With the Gratitude App for Glass, you can even set alerts to every 15 or 30 minutes. Maybe we need someone to do a scientific study of it?
One thing gratitude researchers emphasize is that gratitude is a humbling emotion. By giving thanks to someone or something else, you have to recognize that you’re dependent or indebted to others; you haven’t created all the good in your life on your own. You have to focus outward rather than inward, which is hard to reconcile with narcissism – so maybe the so-called “glassholes” are the perfect audience for it.
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