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From the President’s Desk - Carolynn Cooper - Spring 2024

Posted on Monday, June 3, 2024

As many of you may know, the ARCS National organization recently approved Psychology as an area of study.  Georgia Tech just became the second university to receive approval from ARCS to nominate new scholars in this field.  I was surprised to learn that Tech has been teaching Psychology for 100 years and has been actively seeking this approval for at least a decade. While some ARCS members were concerned that Psychology was a soft science, the field has changed dramatically in the last few decades as technology has advanced. For example, MRI machines allow for increasingly sophisticated analysis of the brain and how it works.

One area of psychological research I find fascinating is the study of gratitude.  Many Greek and Roman philosophers wrote about gratitude and Cicero said it was the “mother” of all human emotions.  Recent studies show that practicing gratitude causes the release of dopamine and serotonin, the chemicals that make us feel good.  It is no surprise that 70 studies involving over 26,000 participants show a relationship between gratitude and reducing depression.  Gratitude has also been shown to reduce anxiety and aggression.  A 2003 study showed it may help patients overcome trauma and help them cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

The benefits of gratitude are not limited to improving mental health.  Several studies have shown that a grateful mindset positively affects the biomarkers associated with heart disease. A 2021 study showed that keeping a gratitude journal can cause a drop in diastolic blood pressure.  A grateful mindset can cause the body to initiate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps regulate rest and digestion. In other words, grateful people have been shown to sleep better. They also appear to take better care of themselves; this could explain why they report fewer aches and pains.

These studies report that practicing gratitude. such as keeping a gratitude journal for 15 minutes a day for six weeks, can enhance mental wellness and may promote lasting mental change. Many of our scholars mention how grateful they are for the support we provide.  ARCS also gives members so many reasons to be grateful.  The chance to share in our scholar’s enthusiasm for the future,  the opportunity to meet other philanthropic women and to participate in lifelong learning are just a few that come to mind. On a personal note, I am deeply grateful for all the Atlanta ARCS members who devote so much of their time and talent to making our chapter successful.  Thank you!