Why should we care so much about gratitude? Here are three reasons:
- Easy to apply: There are a wide range of practices — you can count your blessings, write a letter of gratitude to someone, talk to someone about how important they are to you, or even shift your ungrateful thoughts.
- Mutually beneficial: when you express gratitude it is beneficial for yourself and for the recipient.
- Physical and psychological impact: a double-positive benefit comes from expressing gratitude.
Gratitude is an important and universal character strength and one of the 24 that has gotten the most attention by scientists and laypeople since the release of the VIA Classification. Study after study shows gratitude is an effective intervention to engage in. Here are four of the newest findings from researchers:
1.) Grateful reflection is associated with less stress and depression.
Your practice: Pinpoint a specific instance in which someone did something for you that you are particularly grateful for. Picture this situation clearly in your mind. Allow it to play out like a movie. Feel the positive feelings that arise as you do this.
2.) Reflecting on death can enhance gratitude.
Your practice: Consider the impermanence of your life — your “time-limited” nature. Who is most important in your life and someone you want to increase your quality time with? What matters most to you to do in this one life you have?
3.) People who are high in curiosity are more likely to practice gratitude.
Your practice: Build curiosity by asking questions of each person you meet. Take an exploratory approach in which you attempt to learn something interesting about the person. No doubt, you’ll be grateful to have had the opportunity to connect and you’ll be building your feelings of interest and intrigue.
4.) Spirituality can facilitate gratitude.
Your practice: Since spiritual activities can promote opportunities for gratitude, consider this: Where do you feel you can experience and be present to the sacred? Perhaps in nature, at a church sanctuary, or a quiet space in your home? Take time to convene in this sacred space and be present to the world around you. Allow feelings of gratitude to flow through you.
These practices are great, but why is gratitude not enough on Thanksgiving?
It’s lovely that there’s a day to celebrate the strength of gratitude and unleash it upon your family. It’s especially important for those that are typically mindless to what matters most in their life. But, for the rest of us, we can certainly do better than express a positive quality like gratitude one day per year.
What’s more, it’s limiting to target just one character strength. You have 24 special personality traits that you can turn to if you want to impact others or yourself in a positive way.
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over, how might you express as many of these strengths as possible going forward?
Frias, A., Watkins, P. C., Webber, A. C., & Froh, J. J. (2011). Death and gratitude: Death reflection enhances gratitude. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(2), 154-162.
Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies.
Kaczmarek, L. D., Kashdan, T. B., Kleiman, E. M., Baczkowski, B., Enko, J., Siebers, A., Szäefer, A., Król, M., & Baran, B. (2013). Who self-initiates gratitude interventions in daily life? An examination of intentions, curiosity, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 805-810.
Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A., Wood, A., & Chopra, D. (2015). The role of gratitude in spiritual well-being in asymptomatic heart failure patients. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2(1), 5-17.
O’ Leary, K., & Dockray, S. (2015). The effects of two novel gratitude and mindfulness interventions on well-being. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(4), 242-245. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0119. Epub 2015 Mar 31.
Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Cohen, A. B., Galler, Y., & Krumrei, E. J. (2011). Grateful to God or just plain grateful? A comparison of religious and general gratitude. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 389-396.