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Abstract

Cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands during periods of psychological or physiological stress, has been linked to many of the harmful effects of stress. If cortisol levels are not managed, individuals may be at higher risk of developing certain mental disorders, heart disease, and more. Research examining the effects of gratitude shows promising results in reducing psychological stress, but it is not known if this translates into the physiological effect of reduced cortisol production. This study tests the effect of a gratitude intervention on stress and cortisol levels in college students. In this experiment, a set of 38 participants listed three things they were grateful daily for 28 days and wrote a weekly paragraph about what they were grateful for to test if the intervention could improve cortisol reactivity, perceived stress, satisfaction with life, and gratitude. Cortisol reactivity was measured by salivary cortisol samples taken before and after a stressful social computer game. The hypothesis was not supported. Limitations and future research are discussed as to how gratitude interventions may be effective in only certain conditions.

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