Gratitude is an emotion of thankfulness that may be experienced toward a person, animal, or deity. Gratitude can also describe a general feeling of thankfulness for life itself or for good aspects of life.
Examples of Gratitude
Gratitude may be either a fleeting emotion or a long-term feeling that becomes a part of someone’s personality. Gratitude, like some other emotions, can also be faked, such as when children are taught to express delight for things, such as gifts, whether they actually like them or not.
Examples of gratitude include:
- Feeling grateful for the presence of a significant other or for specific things a person does
- Thanking a spiritual entity for health, well-being, or other good fortune
- Being grateful to a pet for making life better or for doing specific tasks such as bringing in the newspaper or obeying a command
- Feeling thankful for services provided by a company or charity
Gratitude and Mental Health
Gratitude plays a significant role in mental health. People who frequently feel and express gratitude tend to be happier than others, even if their life circumstances are objectively more challenging. People who frequently feel and express gratitude tend to be happier than others, even if their life circumstances are objectively more challenging.Many religions recommend practicing gratitude, and this recommendation may improve members’ mental health. Gratitude can also play a role in both forming and solidifying relationships. Expressing gratitude for gifts, favors, or even just another person’s presence can help increase attachment and encourage closeness. People who do not express gratitude, conversely, are sometimes resented by others.
The Science of Gratitude
Gratitude may be readily dismissed by some as an essential but routine or obvious emotion. However, the importance of gratitude is supported scientifically, by an expanding body of research. According to several recent studies, individuals were shown to have stronger brain structure in the areas of social cognition, empathy, and reward processing after only eight weeks of practicing gratitude. It is believed gratitude may be so helpful because it can help people see how much they matter to others.
Those who practice gratitude regularly report lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, less loneliness and isolation, and higher levels of positive emotions. In addition, gratitude has been shown to relieve symptoms of stress, depression, and posttraumatic stress. Practicing gratitude also often leads to an improved quality of life and well-being as well as greater relationship satisfaction and commitment.
Ways to Increase Gratitude
Here are some simple strategies you can try to increase your gratitude:
- Write a list of ten things you are grateful for each day
- When the opportunity presents itself, ask other people what they are grateful for
- Incorporate expressions of gratitude into your daily routine; for example, say what you are grateful for before the start of a family dinner
- When appropriate, post what you are grateful for publicly, perhaps in a tweet or a Facebook post
- Find a gratitude mantra and repeat it regularly; meditate with a gratitude mantra
- Send handwritten notes of thanks–in an era of digital communication, taking a moment to write a personalized message and send it via “snail mail” can have extra meaning
- When facing a difficult or challenging situation, ask yourself, “What can I be grateful for in this situation?”
- Castillo, S. (2014, November 13). The Science Of Gratitude: It Really Is The Little Things. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/science-gratitude-it-really-little-things-310468
- Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. (n.d.). U.C. Berkeley Greater Good Blog. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude
- Fabrega, M. (n.d.). How gratitude can change your life. The Change Blog. Retrieved from http://www.thechangeblog.com/gratitude
- Melina, R. (2011, November 22). Why You Should Be Grateful This Thanksgiving. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/17145-gratefulness-benefits-thanksgiving.html
- Simon-Thomas, E. R. (2012, December 19). A “thnx” a day keeps the doctor away. U.C. Berkeley Greater Good Blog. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/a_thnx_a_day_keeps_the_doctor_away
- Tierney, J. (2011, November 21). A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/science/a-serving-of-gratitude-brings-healthy-dividends.html?_r=0
Last Updated: 11-30-2015
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