What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components.

Firstly, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.

In the second part of gratitude, we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Emmons and other researchers see the social dimension as being especially important to gratitude. “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion,“ writes Emmons, “because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”

Because gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate gifts but to repay them (or pay them forward), the sociologist Georg Simmel called it “the moral memory of mankind.”

How Gratitude and Appreciation Have a Power?

Why is gratitude important? Over the past decade, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. The research suggests these benefits are available to most anyone who practices gratitude, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, women with breast cancer, and people coping with a chronic muscular disease. Here are some of the top research-based reasons for practicing gratitude.

Gratitude brings us happiness: According to happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, and many other scientists, practicing gratitude has proven to be one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction; it also boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions.

Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.  A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.  Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.

Grateful people sleep better: They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.

Gratitude makes us “pay it forward”: Grateful people are more helpful, altruistic, and compassionate.

Gratitude is good for kids: When 10-19 year olds practice gratitude, they report greater life satisfaction and more positive emotion, and they feel more connected to their community.

Gratitude is good for schools: Studies suggest it makes students feel better about their school; it also makes teachers feel more satisfied and accomplished, and less emotionally exhausted, possibly reducing teacher burnout.

Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2104 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in theJournal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

How to Cultivate and Express Gratitude?

The benefits of gratitude aren’t only available to people with a naturally grateful disposition. Instead, feeling grateful is a skill we can develop with practice, reaping its rewards along the way. Here are some specific, science-based activities for cultivating an attitude of gratitude and how to show gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal, recording three to five things for which you’re grateful every day or week.

Write a “gratitude letter” to an important person in your life whom you’ve never properly thanked. Research suggests gratitude letters provide strong and long-lasting happiness boosts, especially when they’re delivered in person.

Savor the good in your life—don’t just gloss over the beauty and pleasures that come your way.

Focus on intentions: When you receive a gift, or when something good happens to you in general, consider how someone tried on purpose to bring that goodness into your life, even at a cost to themselves. Research suggests this goes a long way toward cultivating “an attitude of gratitude,“ among children and adults alike.

Get metaphysical: Research suggests that thinking hard about our own mortality makes us more grateful for life; another study found that praying more often increases gratitude.

Inspiring Motivational Quotes and Sayings About Gratitude

Here are some of my favorite words of gratitude quotes:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton

“‘Enough’ is a feast. Buddhist proverb

“If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.” Robert Quillen

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” Frank A. Clark

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” Gerald Good

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Charles Schwab

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” Gertrude Stein

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” Henri Frederic Amiel

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson

“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” Naomi Williams

“One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.”John Wooden

“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” Alfred North Whitehead

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne

“Forget yesterday–it has already forgotten you. Don’t sweat tomorrow–you haven’t even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift–today.” Steve Maraboli

“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” Neal A. Maxwell

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

“I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I’m going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.” Mike Ericksen

“Gratitude also opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.” Stephen Richards

“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.” Robert Braathe

“They both seemed to understand that describing it was beyond their powers, the gratitude that spreads through your body when a burden gets lifted, and the sense of homecoming that follows, when you suddenly remember what it feels like to be yourself.” Tom Perrotta

“Gratitude is more of a compliment to yourself than someone else.” Raheel Farooq

“Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it.” Tom Hopkins

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.” Rasheed Ogunlaru

“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou

 

Responses

  1. Lesley

    I can’t thank you enough for the article! I only wish I could write as beautifully as you! I read your article with tears of joy streaming down my face. So moving!

    Thank you again for sharing your wisdom and backing it up with evidence 🙂 X

Comments are closed.