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HeathWatch: Practice Gratitude To Help Keep You Healthy

BERKELEY (CBS SF) - Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley are documenting how giving thanks or feeling thankful is good for your health.

UC Berkeley researcher Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who is leading a project to detail the health effects of having gratitude, pointed to previous studies that show those who kept a journal and detailed their gratitude were 25% happier than those who did not.

"The people who did the gratitude showed increases in happiness, reductions in stress, reductions in vulnerability to physical symptoms, such as headaches and rashes dizziness, said Dr. Simon-Thomas.

Two years ago, it's hard to imagine Janine Kovac feeling grateful for anything. Her twin boys Michael and Wagner were born via emergency C-section, 15 weeks early. They both weighed under two pounds, and spent three months in neonatal intensive care unit

But instead of falling apart, Kovac began to count her blessings and focus on the positive.

She didn't look at the monitors that counted their heart rates and breathing, she looked at her babies and focused on what was going well.

"I knew some of the things that I had to do to get through something traumatic," said Kovac.

Two years later, the boys were still in their Halloween costumes a day after Halloween. In fact, their mom is actually grateful that they put them on.

"I said, 'Yes wear your Halloween costumes. That's fine,'" said Kovac. "I'm just thankful that we got out of the house without a lot of tantrums because we just wore Halloween costumes."

Kovac is a volunteer at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. Here, researchers study the benefits of feeling gratitude or thanks.

"It really encourages you to think outside of yourself for a moment," explained Dr. Simon-Thomas.

Now the Center has launched a new Gratitude Project. It's called The scientists hope the project will jump start an individual's practice of gratitude while collecting the largest pool of gratitude data to data. Anyone can sign up. It will take two weeks and help science at the same time.

Kovac says her boys today are perfectly healthy. Gratitude plays a big part in their lives.

"At dinner, we go around and each says what we're grateful for," said Kovac, "Every night,"

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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