HEALTHY LIVING
04/02/2014 08:27 am ET | Updated Apr 02, 2014

Want To Be More Patient? Practice Gratitude

Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

Patience -- it's good, but notoriously hard, to have. Now, a new study shows a potential way to increase it: Have gratitude.

Published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from Northeastern University, the University of California, Riverside, and Harvard University found that feelings of gratitude are associated with increased patience in the context of a test where waiting leads to a greater monetary reward.

"Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking," study researcher Ye Li, an assistant professor in the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside, said in a statement.

In the study, 75 study participants were asked to write down the details of an event that made them feel happy, an event that made them feel grateful, or the events of a typical day. They were also asked to indicate on a five-point scale how happy or grateful they felt at the current time.

Then, the participants underwent the next part of the experiment, where they were given the opportunity to pick a cash amount -- a lower one that would be paid out that day, or a a higher one that would be paid out anywhere from a week to six months later. The lower cash amounts ranged form $11 to $80, while the higher cash amounts ranged from $25 to $85.

Researchers found that gratitude seemed to predict the ability to wait longer for a greater financial reward. Specifically, the average person who was grateful needed to have $63 immediately in order to forgo receiving a higher amount of money -- $85 -- in three months. Meanwhile, the average neutral or happy person needed just $55 immediately in order to forgo receiving the $85 three months later.

"Comparing gratitude's effects to those of happiness, the results also confirm the importance of more narrowly parsing the influence of positive emotional states within the context of economic choice," the researchers wrote in the study.

Need even more incentive to be grateful? Check out these 10 healthy reasons:

Health Benefits Of Gratitude

CONVERSATIONS