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Can writing make you happier?

Researchers have shown that about 40% of our happiness is accounted for by intentional activity whereas 50% is explained by genetics and 10% by circumstances (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005). Consequently, efforts to improve happiness might best be focused in the domain of intentional activity: willful and self-directed activity (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2007). Such activity is nested in the “sustainable happiness model” proposed by Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade (2005) which states that happiness is in part within our ability to manage. Earlier work (Fordyce, 1977; 1983) supports the premise that individuals can sustain levels of happiness through volitional behavior. The current pilot study explored one such intentional activity – composing letters of gratitude. It was hypothesized that writing three letters of gratitude over time would enhance important qualities of subjective well-being in the author; happiness, life-satisfaction, and gratitude.

Source: “Letters of gratitude: Improving well-being through expressive writing” from Journal of Writing Research

Kinda leaves you hanging because it just “hypothesizes.” Okay, let’s dip inside the paper and look at the conclusion:

This study contributed to the literature by generating evidence that multiple letters of gratitude could not only sustain happiness, as proposed by the sustainable happiness model (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005) but improve both happiness and gratitude.

What are you still doing here? You have letters to write.

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About Eric Barker