How Wonderful Life is While You’re In the World…*

You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. You always take the time to express your thanks. Gratitude is an appreciation of someone else’s excellence in moral character. An as emotion, it is a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life itself. We are grateful when people do well by us, but we can also be more generally grateful for good acts and good people (“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”.) Gratitude can also be directed toward impersonal and nonhuman sources—God, nature, animals—but it cannot be directed toward the self. When in doubt, remember that the word comes from the Latin, gratia, which means grace. -Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness

Growing evidence points to significant links between a strong personal attitude of gratitude and increased happiness as well as a host of other mental, emotional and physical benefits. With Thanksgiving a mere two days away, I thought now might be a good time to round up some of the science behind gratitude and share several useful and intriguing thank-you themed links.

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From Martin Seligman’Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment:

The Gratitude Survey: developed by Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons.

Using the scale below as a guide, write a number beside each statement to indicate how much you agree with it.

1=Strongly Agree
2= Disagree
3= Slightly Agree
4= Neutral
5=Slightly Agree
6 =Agree
7= Strongly Agree

_____1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.

_____2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.
_____3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.
_____4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.
_____5. As I get older, I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.
_____6.Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.

Scoring Instructions:

  1. Add up your scores for items 1, 2, 4 and 5.
  2. Reverse your scores for items 3 and 6. That is, if you scored a “7,” give yourself a 1, if you scored a “6,” give yourself a “2,”etc.
  3. Add the reversed scores for items 3 and 6 to the total from step 1. This is your total GQ-6 score. This number should be between 6 and 42.

Based on a sample of 1,224 adults who recently took this survey as part of a feature on the Spirituality and Health website, here are some benchmarks for making sense of your score.

If you scored 35 or below, then you are in the bottom one-fourth of the sample in terms of gratitude. If you scored between 36 and 38, you are in the bottom one-half of people who took the survey. If you scored between 39 and 41, you are in the top one-fourth, and if you scored 42, you are in the top one-eights. Women score slightly higher than men, and older people score higher than younger people.

 

TIPS FOR CULTIVATING GRATITUDE NOW

From Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment:

GRATITUDE DATES

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with new romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression, and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.

From Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment:

DAILY GRATITUDE JOURNAL

In research done by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, those who kept a daily gratitude journal –writing down at least five things for which they were grateful—enjoyed higher levels of emotional and physical well-being.

Each night before going to sleep, write down at least five things that made or make you happy—things for which you are grateful. These can be little or big: from a meal that you enjoyed to a meaningful conversation you had with a friend, form a project at work to God.

If you do this exercise regularly, you will naturally repeat yourself, which is perfectly fine. The key is, despite the repetition, to keep the emotions fresh; imagine what each item means to you as you write it down, and experience the feeling associated with it. Doing this exercise regularly can help you to appreciate the positive in your life rather than take it for granted.

You can do this exercise on your own or with a loved one: a partner, child, parent, sibling, close friend. Expressing gratitude  together can contribute in a meaningful way to the relationship.

 GRATITUDE LETTERS

A gratitude letter is not just a thank-you note. It is a thoughtful examination of the meaning and pleasure that you derive from the relationship; it describes particular experiences and shared dreams, and whatever else in the relationship is a source of joy.

Relationship expert John Gottman is able to predict the success of a relationship based on how partners describe their past. If partners focus on the happy aspects of their time together, if they remember the past fondly, the relationship is much more likely to thrive. Focusing on meaningful and pleasurable experiences—in the past and the present—fortifies the connection and improves the relationship overall. A gratitude letter highlights the positive elements of the relationship—past, present, and future—and thereby accentuates them.

Make it a ritual to write at least one or two gratitude letters a month to people you care about—a lover, a family member, a dear friend.

 

GRATITUDE LINK FEST

 

Thank You. No, Thank You ~ A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Via The Wall Street Journal, published November 23, 2010.

Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life ~ by Robert A. Emmons & Michael E. McCullough. The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, Vol. 84, No. 2, 377–389.

An Adaptation for Altruism? The Social Causes, Social Effects, and Social Evolution of Gratitude ~ by Michael E. McCullough, Marcia B. Kimeldorf, and Adam D. Cohen. People feel grateful when they have benefited from someone’s costly, intentional, voluntary effort on their behalf. Experiencing gratitude motivates beneficiaries to repay their benefactors and to extend generosity to third parties. Expressions of gratitude also reinforce benefactors for their generosity. These social features distinguish gratitude from related emotions such as happiness and feelings of indebtedness. Evolutionary theories propose that gratitude is an adaptation for reciprocal altruism (the sequential exchange of costly benefits between nonrelatives) and, perhaps, upstream reciprocity (a pay it-forward style distribution of an unearned benefit to a third party after one has received a benefit from another benefactor). Gratitude therefore may have played a unique role in human social evolution. via Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2008, vol 17, 281-284.

Is Gratitude An Alternative to Materialism? ~ by Emily L. Polak & Michael E. McCullough. Materialistic strivings have been implicated as a cause of unhappiness. Gratitude, on the other hand – both in its manifestations as a chronic affective trait and as a more temporary emotional experience – may be a cause of happiness. In the present paper we review the empirical research on the relationships among materialism, gratitude, and well-being. We present new correlational data on the gratitude–materialism relationship and propose that gratitude may have the potential to reduce materialistic strivings and consequently diminish the negative effects of materialistic strivings on psychological well-being. We conclude with some recommendations for future research on the relationships among gratitude, materialism, and well-being. via Journal of Happiness Studies, 2006, 7, 343-360.

Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain: Links of Grateful Moods to
Individual Differences and Daily Emotional Experience ~ by Michael E. McCullough & Jo-Ann Tsang. Two studies were conducted to explore gratitude in daily mood and the relationships among various affective manifestations of gratitude. In Study 1, spiritual transcendence and a variety of positive affective traits were related to higher mean levels of gratitude across 21 days. Study 2 replicated these findings and revealed that on days when people had more grateful moods than was typical for them, they also reported more frequent daily episodes of grateful emotions, more intense gratitude per episode, and more people to whom they were grateful than was typical for them. In addition, gratitude as an affective trait appeared to render participants’ grateful moods somewhat resistant to the effects of discrete emotional episodes of gratitude. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published 2004.

The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography ~ by Michael E. McCullough, Robert A. Emmons & Jo-Ann Tsang. In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being, prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002, Vol. 82, No. 1, 112–127.

thxthxthx: a thank you note a day~ There’s always something to be thankful for. From the important things like Songs You’re Embarrassed to Like, and Heavy Eyelids that Tell You When You Need to Sleep, to friends and family, love and loneliness, light and darkness, Leah Dieterich sets out to acknowledge them all. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude. And be sure to check out Leah’s book thxthxthx, inspired by the website.

Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome ~ Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things savors life’s simple pleasures, from free refills to clean sheets. In this heartfelt talk, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that’s truly awesome. via TEDxToronto2010, published January 2011.

 

Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you ~ In this deceptively simple 3-minute talk, Dr. Laura Trice muses on the power of the magic words “thank you” — to deepen a friendship, to repair a bond, to make sure another person knows what they mean to you. Try it. via TED2008, published September 2008.

 

Louie Schwarzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. ~ Nature’s beauty can be easily missed — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day. via TEDxSF, published November 2011

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