Gratitude Matters at Thanksgiving and Beyond

Be a more grateful person

Enjoy greater health and well-being

The Roman orator Cicero proclaimed that gratitude was not only the greatest virtue but also the mother of every other virtue. Religious traditions have long exhorted people to grateful. While the state of gratitude is valuable in its own right, it may lead to other positive outcomes. Robert Emmons, in his book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier declared that gratitude means acknowl­edging the goodness in our own life and recognizing that the source of goodness lies partially outside of ourselves. If we regularly practice gratitude, we’ll likely reap a host of emotional, physical, and personal benefits. Emmons, a pioneer researcher in the psychology of gratitude, writes that feeling grateful creates a ripple effect through all aspects of our lives, including our quest for inner peace, wholeness, and contentment.

Emmons and his colleague, Michael McCullough, were among the first researchers to conduct controlled experiments that investigated the effects of gratitude on aspects of psychological and physical well-being. University students were the research subjects in two of their experiments, while adults with neuromuscular disease were the subjects in a third experiment. In these studies, inducing a state of gratefulness through gratitude exercises created varying emotional, physical, and interpersonal benefits. Thus, becoming a more grateful person may improve your health and well-being. Gratitude may build enduring psychological, social, and spiritual resources that can be drawn on in difficult times. Gratitude may help us feel better in the present and in the future.

More recently, British researchers proposed a new model of gratitude. It extends the more limiting view of gratitude as a response of receiving help from others to a “habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life.” Thus, gratitude is more of a trait and a general world view than simply an emotion. Studies have identified eight facets of gratitude: 1) individual differences in the experience of grateful affect (mood), 2) appreciation of other people, 3) a focus of what a person has, 4) feelings of awe when encountering beauty, 5) behaviors to express gratitude, 6) appreciation arising from understanding that life is short, 7) a focus on the positive in the present moment, and 8) positive social comparisons.

These researchers reviewed the gratitude literature and found a large body of evidence that links gratitude to all aspects of well-being. Higher gratitude predicts less psychopathology and more adaptive personality characteristics, health, positive relationships, subjective and eudaimonic well-being, and humanistically oriented functioning. Health benefits include lower stress and better sleep. Gratitude is linked to all of the Big Five personality traits (greater extroversion, openness, optimism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and lower neuroticism).

Four mechanisms have been proposed to account gratitude’s positive effects: 1) a more positive life outlook, 2) better coping skills, 3) greater positive affect, and 4) effects of broadening and building positive outcomes. Happily, simple, low- or no-cost interventions designed to build gratitude, especially keeping gratitude lists, appear to be effective.

Researchers at Florida State University proposed the following to strengthen your relationship with your partner. Every day, ask yourself these three questions: 1) Have I expressed my appreciation for the things that my partner does for me? 2) Do I let my partner know that I value him/her? 3) When my partner does something nice for me, do I acknowledge it? Wouldn’t this Thanksgiving be an ideal time to begin showing more gratitude to your partner? You’ll both be happier for it!

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment