The Power of Gratitude on Mental Health
A collection of links, quotes, videos and articles about the power that gratitude has on mental health.
“As an essential mental health principle, the benefits of gratitude stretch far beyond what we could ever imagine. Gratitude changes the way you think and speak. It helps you see the best, regardless of life’s circumstances. It changes your perspective and enables you to recognize that people all over the world need more love, positivity, hope and encouragement.” —Bryce Runge
Look for free “Tips for Developing Gratitude” at:
Below are various articles about Gratitude that you may enjoy reading.
It’s easy to feel grateful when life is good, says Robert Emmons. But when disaster strikes, gratitude is worth the effort.
A decade’s worth of research on gratitude has shown me that when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. But what about when life goes badly? In the midst of the economic maelstrom that has gripped our country, I have often been asked if people can—or even should—feel grateful under such dire circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that gratitude will come easily or naturally in a crisis. It’s easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one “feels” grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health or has taken a devastating hit on his or her retirement portfolio.
But it is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between these two points.
But being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, this perspective is hard to achieve—but my research says it is worth the effort.
Remember the bad
Trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Our national holiday of gratitude, Thanksgiving, was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.
Why? Well, when times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe that they are invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, people realize how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, may be taken away, it becomes much harder to take it for granted.
So crisis can make us more grateful—but research says gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. The contrast between suffering and redemption serves as the basis for one of my tips for practicing gratitude: remember the bad.
It works this way: Think of the worst times in your life, your sorrows, your losses, your sadness—and then remember that here you are, able to remember them, that you made it through the worst times of your life, you got through the trauma, you got through the trial, you endured the temptation, you survived the bad relationship, you’re making your way out of the dark. Remember the bad things, then look to see where you are now.
This process of remembering how difficult life used to be and how far we have come sets up an explicit contrast that is fertile ground for gratefulness. Our minds think in terms of counterfactuals—mental comparisons we make between the way things are and how things might have been different. Contrasting the present with negative times in the past can make us feel happier (or at least less unhappy) and enhance our overall sense of well-being. This opens the door to coping gratefully.
Try this little exercise. First, think about one of the unhappiest events you have experienced. How often do you find yourself thinking about this event today? Does the contrast with the present make you feel grateful and pleased? Do you realize your current life situation is not as bad as it could be? Try to realize and appreciate just how much better your life is now. The point is not to ignore or forget the past but to develop a fruitful frame of reference in the present from which to view experiences and events.
There’s another way to foster gratitude: confront your own mortality. In a recent study, researchers asked participants to imagine a scenario where they are trapped in a burning high rise, overcome by smoke, and killed. This resulted in a substantial increase in gratitude levels, as researchers discovered when they compared this group to two control conditions who were not compelled to imagine their own deaths.
In these ways, remembering the bad can help us to appreciate the good. As the German theologian and Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” We know that gratitude enhances happiness, but why? Gratitude maximizes happiness in multiple ways, and one reason is that it helps us reframe memories of unpleasant events in a way that decreases their unpleasant emotional impact. This implies that grateful coping entails looking for positive consequences of negative events. For example, grateful coping might involve seeing how a stressful event has shaped who we are today and has prompted us to reevaluate what is really important in life.
To say that gratitude is a helpful strategy to handle hurt feelings does not mean that we should try to ignore or deny suffering and pain.
So telling people simply to buck up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.
A growing body of research has examined how grateful recasting works. In a study conducted at Eastern Washington University, participants were randomly assigned to one of three writing groups that would recall and report on an unpleasant open memory—a loss, a betrayal, victimization, or some other personally upsetting experience. The first group wrote for 20 minutes on issues that were irrelevant to their open memory. The second wrote about their experience pertaining to their open memory.
Researchers asked the third group to focus on the positive aspects of a difficult experience—and discover what about it might now make them feel grateful. Results showed that they demonstrated more closure and less unpleasant emotional impact than participants who just wrote about the experience without being prompted to see ways it might be redeemed with gratitude. Participants were never told not to think about the negative aspects of the experience or to deny or ignore the pain. Moreover, participants who found reasons to be grateful demonstrated fewer intrusive memories, such as wondering why it happened, whether it could have been prevented, or if they believed they caused it to happen. Thinking gratefully, this study showed, can help heal troubling memories and in a sense redeem them—a result echoed in many other studies.
Some years ago, I asked people with debilitating physical illnesses to compose a narrative concerning a time when they felt a deep sense of gratitude to someone or for something. I asked them to let themselves re-create that experience in their minds so that they could feel the emotions as if they had transported themselves back in time to the event itself. I also had them reflect on what they felt in that situation and how they expressed those feelings. In the face of progressive diseases, people often find life extremely challenging, painful, and frustrating. I wondered whether it would even be possible for them to find anything to be grateful about. For many of them, life revolved around visits to the pain clinic and pharmacy. I would not have been at all surprised if resentment overshadowed gratefulness.
As it turned out, most respondents had trouble settling on a specific instance—they simply had so much in their lives that they were grateful for. I was struck by the profound depth of feeling that they conveyed in their essays, and by the apparent life-transforming power of gratitude in many of their lives.
It was evident from reading these narrative accounts that (1) gratitude can be an overwhelmingly intense feeling, (2) gratitude for gifts that others easily overlook most can be the most powerful and frequent form of thankfulness, and (3) gratitude can be chosen in spite of one’s situation or circumstances. I was also struck by the redemptive twist that occurred in nearly half of these narratives: out of something bad (suffering, adversity, affliction) came something good (new life or new opportunities) for which the person felt profoundly grateful.
If you are troubled by an open memory or a past unpleasant experience, you might consider trying to reframe how you think about it using the language of thankfulness. The unpleasant experiences in our lives don’t have to be of the traumatic variety in order for us to gratefully benefit from them. Whether it is a large or small event, here are some additional questions to ask yourself:
- What lessons did the experience teach me?
- Can I find ways to be thankful for what happened to me now even though I was not at the time it happened?
- What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me?
- How am I now more the person I want to be because of it? Have my negative feelings about the experience limited or prevented my ability to feel gratitude in the time since it occurred?
- Has the experience removed a personal obstacle that previously prevented me from feeling grateful?
Remember, your goal is not to relive the experience but rather to get a new perspective on it. Simply rehearsing an upsetting event makes us feel worse about it. That is why catharsis has rarely been effective. Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change. No amount of writing about the event will help unless you are able to take a fresh, redemptive perspective on it. This is an advantage that grateful people have—and it is a skill that anyone can learn.
Sometimes in life, things happen too fast. We barely solve one problem when two new problems surface. We’re feeling great in the morning, but we’re submerged in misery by nightfall.
Every day we face interruptions, delays, changes, and challenges. We face personality conflicts and disappointments. Often when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we can’t see the lessons in these experiences.
One simple concept can get us through the most stressful of times. It’s called gratitude. We learn to say, thank you, for these problems and feelings. Thank you for the way things are. I don’t like this experience, but thank you anyway.
Force gratitude until it becomes habitual. Gratitude helps us stop trying to control outcomes. It is the key that unlocks positive energy in our life. It is the alchemy that turns problems into blessings, and the unexpected into gifts.
Today, I will be grateful. I will start the process of turning today’s pain into tomorrow’s joy.
We learn the magical lesson that making the most of what we have turns it into more.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Gratitude makes things right.
Gratitude turns negative energy into positive energy. There is no situation or circumstance so small or large that it is not susceptible to gratitude’s power. We can start with who we are and what we have today, apply gratitude, then let it work its magic.
Say thank you, until you mean it. If you say it long enough, you will believe it.
Today, I will shine the transforming light of gratitude on all the circumstances of my life.
From the book: The Language of Letting Go
Author: Jerilyn Stowe, Associate Director PR & Communications, HMHI
Is it true that you can become healthier and happier by practicing gratitude?
The short answer is yes. Research suggests that gratitude can make people happier, improve relationships, and potentially even counteract depression and suicidal thoughts. Gratitude can also boost self-esteem.
The long answer is supported by well-studied research. “Expressing gratitude can positively change your brain,” says Kristin Francis, MD, a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “It boosts dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters in the brain that improve your mood immediately, giving you those positive feelings of pleasure, happiness, and well-being.”
Each day, as we practice gratitude, we can help these neural pathways in our brain strengthen and ultimately create a permanent grateful, positive nature within ourselves.
Gratitude makes you happy
Gratitude is associated with happiness. Expressing feelings of appreciation to others and ourselves creates positive emotions and feelings of pleasure and contentment.
Research shows that people who express gratitude are more likely to share with others freely, offer emotional support and assistance, and forgive more willingly. Being grateful is easy and has an impact on the people around us. When showing someone you appreciate them, you are encouraging them to respond in nice ways towards others—creating a chain reaction of positivity.
“Have you ever noticed how it makes you feel when you buy someone a gift or compliment them?” Francis says. “This feeling is supported by science—when you are nice to others and think kind things towards them, your emotional mood becomes more positive. Researchers have found that those who experience more positive moods have less anxiety and tend to view situations more optimistically.”
“Expressing gratitude can positively change your brain.”Kristin Francis, MD
Gratitude lessens stress, anxiety, and depression
In a study on gratitude and appreciation, participants who felt grateful showed a reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. They had stronger cardiac functioning and were more resilient to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. Over the years, studies have established that practicing gratitude allows us to handle stress better.
“When we acknowledge the small things in life, we can rewire our brain to deal with the present with more awareness and broader perception,” Francis says. “By reducing stress, gratitude reduces depression and anxiety. Keeping a gratitude journal or consistently verbalizing gratitude can help manage negative emotions like guilt and shame.”
Gratitude improves your physical health
Grateful people are healthy people. Practicing gratitude slows the effects of neurodegeneration and leads to decreased inflammation and lower blood pressure. Researchers have shown when we practice appreciation, our bodies release the oxytocin hormone, which expands blood vessels, reduces blood pressure, and protects your heart. Oxytocin deepens our relationships and helps us feel more connected to others. It also supports us in building a network of family and friends, which results in a longer and healthier life.
Studies have also shown that grateful people eat healthy, move their bodies more, and are less likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs.
Tips for cultivating happiness and health with gratitude
There are simple, easy things you can do to start a daily gratitude practice:
- Self-appreciation. Daily, practice saying five good things about yourself. It may be awkward or difficult at first, but over time it will become easier.
- Journaling. You don’t need a diary with a lock to begin a journaling practice. Use a notebook, your daily planner, or even sticky notes and write down a few things you are grateful for each day.
- Make someone feel special. If you have a person in your life that you feel you “owe” some happiness or success to, visit them in person and tell them how much they mean to you. Or, if you have a friend or coworker that has influenced your life, make them feel special by thanking them and telling them how much you appreciate them.
- Find a “gratitude buddy.” Find someone to share your daily practice with—your spouse, your child, or a friend. Set aside a few minutes a few times a week to share what you are grateful for.
“Most important, let yourself be happy.”Kristin Francis, MD
“Most important, let yourself be happy,” Francis says. “Be proud of any small achievement or success, acknowledge your happiness, and be thankful for the moment. Accepting happiness makes us grateful for all that we have and, over time, makes us stronger. Praising our efforts prepares us for the difficulties we may have to manage in the future.”
Practicing gratitude and compassion is always essential—this intentional behavior creates a trickle-down effect. If you are kind to yourself and grateful toward others, people start taking your lead, and before you know it, the world is a more thoughtful and kind place.
MENTAL HEALTH KINDNESS WELLNESS WELLBEING BRAIN HEALTH HAPPINESS GRATITUDE
Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. Certainly, major depression or a severe anxiety disorder benefits most from professional help. But what about those who just feel lost or overwhelmed or down at this time of year? Research (and common sense) suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — being grateful.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Gratitude, in mathematical logic jargon, is a primitive notion. It is a concept not defined by previously-defined concepts. Hence, dictionary definitions seem a bit circular. Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) defines it as “the state of being grateful.” Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.) defines it as “a strong feeling of appreciation” for the help received from something or someone. Surely, both definitions are correct even though they are roundabout. Understanding the concept, however, would be better if we enrich it with perspectives through the scientific lens.
Contrary to common knowledge, gratitude is more than just an individual’s emotional response that results in making other people feel appreciated. Actual scientific studies prove the benefits of gratitude that contribute to an individual’s character development and overall well-being. And in this article, we will look into these benefits and how we can achieve them.
Benefits of Gratitude Table of Contents
- What is gratitude?
- How does gratitude work?
- Gratitude in Practice
- Benefits of Gratitude
- Grateful Living in the Time of Pandemic
What is gratitude?
This is one of the thought-provoking questions one may ask about life. According to Robert A. Emmons, one of the key researchers in the field, gratitude has two core components—first as “an affirmation of goodness” and then as a way for us to acknowledge that the “sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves” (Emmons, 2010). This description of gratitude is quite similar to the one provided by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedectine monk and author of Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. According to Brother David, gratefulness has two important qualities, the first being the appreciation of something you deem valuable. The second quality of gratefulness is that it must be gratis or given freely (The Gratefulness Team, 2017). Going back further in history, renowned Roman scholar Cicero claimed that gratitude is both the “parent” and the greatest of all virtues, thus earning a fundamental position in philosophical theories (Wood et al., 2007).
Moreover, gratitude is considered as one of the key religious virtues along with humility and compassion (Krause & Hayward, 2015). Furthermore, it has been scientifically recognized as a source of human strength (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000). However, despite its acknowledged importance in the religious, philosophical, and scientific realm, gratitude remains as “one of the most neglected and underestimated virtues” and among the most underutilized attitudes to the point where it is ignored altogether (Emmons & McCullough, 2004, p. v). Fortunately, there are those that make “gratitude” a good part of their research in their psychology careers.
Research has found that, ironically, the often-ignored virtue is also the most sought-after reward as shown by recent studies among professionals, especially those in the medical field; specifically among physicians.
How does gratitude work?
Neuropsychological studies on the subject of gratitude are fairly new but have nonetheless caught the interest of neuroscientific researchers. According to one study, the neural basis of gratitude does not only revolve around basic human emotions but also extends to social emotions that play crucial roles in an individual’s well-being (Wood et al., 2007). Chemical activities in various regions of the brain also indicate that gratitude correlates to moral judgment (Zahn, et al., 2008). Moreover, the differences in the behavioral expressions of gratitude may be affected by “the individual differences in a genotype for oxytocin function” (Algoe and Way, 2014), which points out the important role played by gratitude in social bonding. Furthermore, another study suggests that the brain produces dopamine in response to receiving rewards, which can be associated with the state of being grateful (Carter, 2009).
As these gratitude benefits research show, all of these neural activities in the central nervous system manifest externally as a positive emotional response of gratitude. In return, gratitude draws back benefits that go beyond emotional satisfaction and happiness.
Gratitude in Practice
Gratitude is more than a natural response—it is an attitude that can help train our brain to be more attuned to positivity. Gratitude is something you can develop as a habit, and here are several of the scientifically proven practices and exercises to improve your sense of gratitude:
- Keeping a journal. Several studies have shown that writing down the details of positive experiences you had throughout the day, week, or month can help condition your brain to be more appreciative of the things you have to be grateful for (Oppland, 2020).
- Using visual reminders. One of the best ways to remind ourselves of the things we have to be grateful for is through visualizations. This exercise shows how the simple act of taking pictures of the things we appreciate to have in our lives helps us visualize and reinforce gratitude (Oppland, 2020).
- Sharing gratitude with loved ones. Small acts of kindness, especially when they come from the people we are close with (family, relatives, close friends, etc.) are sometimes overlooked. Fortunately, we can train ourselves to be more appreciative of our loved ones’ kindness. We can start by saying “thank you” to small but meaningful gestures we notice, such as loved ones checking how our day went, getting our meals ready, etc. This does not only make us more grateful for the things we have, but it also helps build a stronger relationship with the people we care about.
- Giving gratitude letters or notes. Writing a letter of gratitude or even a thank you note to at least one person a week helps significantly improve mental health. This has been proven by a study that involved around 300 adults, all of whom were going through mental health counseling (Wong and Brown, 2018). Writing gratitude letters or notes for the people who have become your source of inspiration has also shown to increase levels of happiness and gratefulness (Oppland, 2020). In a survey by a market research company, it shows that sending appreciation in written form is still very much alive.
There are a number of ways we can condition our minds and ourselves to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives. But mind that what is more important than choosing which method can work for us is to ensure that we are consistent in doing the exercises in order for them to be effective.
Benefits of Gratitude
USC neuroscientist Glenn Fox is the first one to present a completed study on how gratitude manifests in the brain. In terms of the health benefits brought by gratitude, he states that it relies on the amount of attention and practice you put into feeling and expressing gratitude (Linberg, 2017). But what are these benefits of gratitude and how do we get them? First, let us take a look at the scientifically proven benefits gratitude can bring to the different aspects of our well-being.
Physical Health Benefits
- Gratitude helps improve sleep. Cultivating gratitude throughout the day nurtures more positive thoughts that can help you drift into a more peaceful sleep. Researchers from the University of Manchester in England examined the correlation between gratitude and the thoughts before sleeping, and how these affect an individual’s sleep. Included in the study are 401 adults between 18 to 68 years old. Among the participants, 40% are recorded to have clinically impaired sleep or have sleeping disorders based on their Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score. By using a cross-sectional questionnaire, the researchers discovered that gratitude drives negatives thoughts away, especially before bedtime, thus making more room for positive thoughts and reflections that contribute to a more peaceful and longer uninterrupted slumber (Wood et al., 2009, p. 43-48).
- Gratitude helps lower high blood pressure. According to Emmons, gratitude is a good form of medicine. Furthermore, clinical trials have proven that the practice of gratitude can leave lasting positive effects on a person’s health. Emmons also states that individuals who have a grateful attitude tend to be more health-conscious, such as avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, which contributes to neutralizing the blood pressure of hypertensive patients.
- Gratitude helps prevent overeating. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist and expert in the psychology of eating, cites that practicing gratitude reinforces an individual’s willpower to resist excessive eating. One can do this by focusing on the food that is on the table and being grateful for it instead of thinking of the dishes they crave but are not available. By harnessing the power of gratitude, the brain also builds resistance against giving in to excessive eating tendencies.
- Gratitude motivates you to exercise more. An experimental study by Emmons and Michael McCullough looks into the psychological and physical effects of practicing gratitude. In this study, the participants were encouraged to keep gratitude journals that record their activities on a weekly basis. Based on the journals, those who exhibit a more grateful attitude were also the ones who engaged more in healthy physical activities, such as exercising. It is also recorded in the study that the improvement in physical activities also helps improve the participants’ outlook on life as a whole (Emmons & McCullough, 2003, pp. 377-389).
- Gratitude helps strengthen the immune system. Practicing gratitude improves immune function, thus decreasing the risk of contracting diseases (Sood, 2009; Emmons, 2010). This benefit of gratitude goes hand-in-hand with the improvement in the sleeping pattern.
- Gratitude improves pain tolerance. Studies show that the daily practice of gratitude helps lessen an individual’s sensitivity to pain (The Sports & Spinal Group, 2020). According to Bruce F. Singer, a psychologist and founding director of the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center, the practice of gratitude may not completely eliminate chronic pain, but it can be an effective pain management tool as it helps shift the focus away from the physical pain and to the more positive things instead.
- Gratitude helps keep glucose levels under control. Practicing gratitude has led to lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, which is a glucose control indicator that helps in the diagnosis of diabetes. According to this study, grateful individuals have been reported to have their Hemoglobin A1c levels decrease by 9-13%.
- Gratitude extends the lifespan. As a positive emotion, gratitude improves an individual’s overall well-being. An example of this is how gratitude enhances optimism, which then combats the health hazards brought by fostering a pessimistic outlook in life (Boyles, 2009). According to a medical study that focuses on the risk of developing heart disease and risk for death among women, participants who scored high in optimism only had a 9% risk of developing heart illness. Optimistic women also scored 14% lower risk of dying compared to women who scored high in cynicism and hostility.
- Gratitude helps patients with heart illness. According to a study, the practice of gratitude contributes to reducing the biomarkers of inflammation by 7% among individuals diagnosed with congestive heart failure (UC Davis Health, 2015).
Mental, Psychological, and Spiritual Health Benefits
- Gratitude boosts self-confidence. A study that focuses on athletes shows that the participants with high levels of gratitude received from their coaches also experienced an increase in self-esteem over the period of six months the research was conducted (Chen and Wu, 2014, pp. 349-362).
- Gratitude improves patience. Among the benefits of gratitude is how it can increase your level of patience. A study conducted by a team of researchers from several universities looks into the phenomenon that leads individuals to not value long-term gratification by favoring immediate rewards. Based on the study, participants who exhibited higher levels of gratitude over little things they have on a daily basis are more likely to be patient and sensible when it comes to making financial decisions. (Northeastern University College of Science, 2014)
- Gratitude improves resiliency. Other gratitude benefits for mental health include factors that make us more resilient. According to a study, gratitude can promote positive outcomes after a traumatic experience, which then helps establish resilience toward the adverse effects left by a negative encounter (Vieselmeyer et al., 2017, pp. 62-69).
- Gratitude reduces envy and jealousy. Being envious or jealous of someone who has something you do not can only lead to resentment. Practicing gratitude can help shift the focus away from other people’s possessions and to what you have that you can be thankful for.
- Gratitude makes you more optimistic. Based on a study, an intervention of gratitude in life establishes a stronger positive outlook in life (Peters et al., 2013, pp. 93-100).
- Gratitude makes us less materialistic. The relentless pursuit of material things offers nothing more than instant but short-term gratification, which leads to the craving for more. Practicing gratitude brings the focus toward intangible but more valuable things in life that contribute to the overall well-being, such as accomplishing goals, fostering healthy relationships, nurturing career growth, maintaining a positive outlook in life, and more (Polak and McCullough, 2006).
- Gratitude makes you more forgiving. Gratitude is one of the core factors in the positive psychological characteristics that play significant roles in the forgiveness process (Rey & Extremera, 2014, pp. 199-204). According to a study by Lourdes Rey and Natalio Extremera from the University of Malaga in Spain, the element of gratitude has key contributions to interpersonal motivations to forgive along with optimism, emotional intelligence abilities, and the Big 5 personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism).
- Gratitude helps the battle against depression. While gratitude cannot cure depression, it can help bring an individual more positive interventions into the life of someone suffering from it. Incorporating the practice of gratitude brings forth positive experiences and reduces stress-inducing hormones while increasing “feel-good” ones. Gratitude also strengthens personal relationships, which then reinforces the support system around someone suffering from depression and anxiety.
- Gratitude helps in recovery from addiction. Individuals suffering from substance abuse fare better in their road to recovery when the practice of gratitude is incorporated into their rehabilitation treatment. This is because individuals who have become addicted to drugs and alcohol tend to be engrossed in selfish thoughts. To counter this mindset, recovering individuals are encouraged to cultivate gratitude in order to develop humility and a more positive outlook in life.
- Gratitude enhances vitality. Study shows that high-energy individuals share similar traits with people who exhibit high levels of gratitude, which can only mean that gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated (McCullough et al., 2002).
- Gratitude enhances spiritualism. The majority of religions believe that gratitude is one of the most important virtues. This is because Individuals who are more spiritual also have the tendency to exhibit more grateful behavior.
- Practicing and showing gratitude improves your mood. Gratitude plays a significant role in enhancing positive emotions. By expressing gratitude on a regular basis, your focus will shift to the positive aspects of your day, which lifts your frame of mind and spirit.
- Gratitude helps manage grief. Grieving with gratitude helps us get through times of sorrow. While grieving is a painful process we have to experience over something or someone we have lost, gratitude also helps us appreciate the things left to us or those that we still have.
- Gratitude makes us see our memories in a positive light. Unpleasant memories are not easy to look back on and they can haunt us in the present. Gratitude, however, can transform negative memories into positive ones through the power of grateful processing that aims to bring closure to the unpleasant events that fuel these negative recollections (Watkins et al., 2008).
- Gratitude contributes to happiness. Several studies have confirmed that exhibiting the attitude of gratitude is associated with happiness triggered by having a stronger sense of appreciation for rewards, kindness received, and other positive aspects of life. By exercising gratitude through journaling, it has been found that long-term happiness can be enhanced by more than 10% (Emmons and McCullough, 2003; Seligman et al., 2005).
- Gratitude helps strengthen romantic relationships. The positive emotions brought by gratitude play a unique role in establishing a high-quality relationship between couples. According to a study, the receiver of gratitude projects “relational growth” with the other person expressing gratitude (Algoe et al., 2013, pp. 605-609). When couples actively participate in expressing and receiving gratitude, the quality of their relationship is likely to improve.
- Gratitude helps improve relationships with friends. Similar to how gratitude works in enhancing the quality of romantic relationships, expressing gratitude to friends can work wonders in improving the bond between them and viewing each other in a more positive light. Showing your appreciation to your friends reinforces clearer and more comfortable communication which play significant roles in resolving possible issues and misunderstanding (Lambert & Fincham, 2011, pp. 50-60).
- Gratitude strengthens family support. A family that practices gratitude religiously is more likely to have improved well-being. According to a study that focuses on teenagers and young adults with ill parents, those who belong to families that actively practice gratitude feel more protected against the mental and emotional stress brought by the difficulties associated with having ill parents (Stoeckel et al., 2014, pp. 1501-1509).
- Gratitude fosters a healthy social circle. People who practice gratitude and express it on a regular basis are more likely to attract people with the same mindset. (Wood et al., 2010).
Professional Skills/Workplace Benefits
- Gratitude improves retention. A study conducted by the Glassdoor team shows that 53% of employees claim that they are willing to stay longer in a company if their boss appreciates them more (Glassdoor Team, 2019). Meanwhile, another research states that 66% of employees are willing to quit their jobs if they feel like they are not appreciated (Lipman, 2017).
- Gratitude enhances productivity. According to Glassdoor’s survey, 81% or four in every five employees feel more motivated to work harder when they feel that their work is appreciated by their boss and/or employers. Meanwhile, less than 40% of employees feel that they need to work harder due to their bosses’ demands or fear of losing their jobs (Glassdoor, 2019).
- Gratitude helps build better relationships among work colleagues. Good camaraderie between work colleagues not only builds better work relationships but also creates a healthy and more positive work environment.
- Gratitude enhances management capabilities. Practicing gratitude in the workplace can help shape you to become a more efficient manager or leader. This is particularly helpful in expanding your network and fostering employees’ trust and client loyalty (Emmons and Crumpler, 2000).
- Gratitude improves decision-making skills. Making important life decisions, such as choosing a degree and choosing from options that affect your career, requires time and patience. According to a study from Northeastern University, practicing gratitude is an effective way to increase one’s patience, which then helps in making logical and better choices in the different aspects of life. Adding little by little gratitude may help reduce stress in college.
- Gratitude cultivates a sense of fulfillment. The practice of gratitude in the workplace helps employees find meaning and purpose as a result of the genuine appreciation they receive from the work they do (Dik et al., 2015).
- Gratitude helps improve the working environment. Cultivating gratitude in the workplace plays an important role in establishing a healthy environment where employees feel happy, valued, and cared for.
Grateful Living in the Time of Pandemic
Cultivating gratitude can be challenging, especially during this time when coronavirus continues to proliferate and fear grips the lives of many. In the midst of these difficult times, it is crucial to pay attention to nurturing not just your physical health but also your mental well-being. While boosting the immune system with proper nutrition, supplements, and vaccines is definitely a necessary step to protect yourself, practicing gratitude is just as important, especially for your mental state.
More than ever, adopting the attitude of gratitude today is even more important in order to reinforce positivity in your and your loved ones’ lives. This can happen if you start focusing on being grateful for the valuable things you have and engaging yourself in gratitude exercises, some of which were included in the previous sections, such as keeping a journal, writing gratitude letters, and more.
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