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Brenda O'Connell published in Journal of Positive Psychology


Study purpose?

The aim of the study was to examine whether social relationships could be improved by simple pro-social exercises, specifically, to what extent does showing gratitude and kindness towards others play a part in explaining this association.

What did we find?

Our results showed that people who expressed gratitude or did something kind for someone in their social network every second day for just one week reported higher relationship satisfaction six weeks later compared to those who directed the gratitude or kindness towards themselves or those who just wrote about their day.

How did we do it?

According to Brenda, after randomizing 225 healthy adult volunteers into three different groups (grateful and kind to others, grateful and kind to oneself and a control group) and asking them to complete measures of social support and relationship satisfaction, volunteers then did their tasks every second day during the week. They then returned to complete the relationship satisfaction measure after the week and then again six weeks later. We found that volunteers, who expressed sincere gratitude and kindness towards others and then took time to reflect on peoples’ reactions, reported a statistically significant increase in relationship satisfaction from baseline six weeks compared to no change in the self-focused and the control group. This was also independent of original levels of social support.

What does it mean?

We know that social relationships are very important for our health with those who have better relationships living longer and happier lives. Therefore any intervention that can improve social relationships should improve our health. Here we have shown techniques like gratitude and kindness toward others in a brief exercise intervention is a simple and effective way of improving our relationships.

Article can be found here: Journal of Positive Psychology


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