Photo by Albian19; Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Albian19; Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever noticed how the human brain favors the pleasure of instant gratification over the benefits of long-term health and well-being?

Resisting temptation is difficult, and the inability to resist temptation underlies a wide range of money problems including overspending, accumulating debt, and failing to save enough money for the future.

A recent study at the Northeastern University College of Science (Science Daily, March 2014) demonstrated an interesting way to strengthen patience and impulse control in the financial domain. Participants in the study were assigned to one of three conditions and then were asked to write about an event from their past. Individuals in condition one were instructed to write about an event that made them feel grateful; individuals in condition two wrote about an event that made them feel happy; and individuals in condition three wrote about an event that was emotionally neutral.

Next, participants were asked to make a decision between receiving a lesser sum of money now or a larger sum of money on a future date. It turned out that participants who wrote about a neutral or happy event showed a strong preference for the immediate payouts, but the individuals who wrote about their grateful feelings were much better able to resist temptation, exhibit patience, and wait for the future reward.

Interestingly, “the degree of patience exhibited was directly related to the amount of gratitude any individual felt.” So it appears that being thankful and heightening your sense of fulfillment help to reduce economic impatience and strengthen self-control. This could certainly come in handy to reverse societal trends such as impulse buying and insufficient saving.

When you are feeling grateful and content, what impact does this have on your financial decision-making?