Robert A. Emmons February 17 th , 2010 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org What Good is Gratitude? Insights from the Science of Well-Being
How to get rich quick…
“ I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich. But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful…It's the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme.”
--Ben Stein, lawyer, writer, actor and economist
Gratitude has the power
to energize, and
to change lives.
Affirming goodness and recognizing that the sources of this goodness are outside the self
Two main questions:
Can gratitude be cultivated on a regular basis? How?
If so, what are the effects of gratitude on human health, happiness and well-being?
Why happiness matters:
Happy people are more successful in life
Health and well-being
Career success and income levels
Happiness makes good things happen:
higher income and superior work outcomes (e.g., greater productivity, higher quality of work, greater occupational attainment)
larger social rewards (more satisfying and longer marriages, more friends, stronger social support, and richer social interactions)
more activity and energy, better physical health (e.g., a bolstered immune system, lowered stress levels, less pain) and even longer life
Gratitude: The Key to Life?
“ Whatever you are in search of—peace of mind, prosperity, health, love—it is waiting for you if only you are willing to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”
G. K. Chesterton on Gratitude
“ gratitude produced the most purely joyful moments that have been known to man”
“ All goods look better when they look like gifts”
Counting Blessings or Burdens?
Random assignment, placebo controlled experimental trials
Examples of Hassles
Hard to find parking
Messy kitchen no one will clean
Finances depleting quickly
No money for gas
Our house smells like manure
Burned my macaroni and cheese
Doing favor for friend who didn’t appreciate it
Examples of ‘‘Blessings”
Generosity of friends
The right to vote
Saw grandson get first haircut
That I have learned all that I have learned
Sunset through the clouds
The chance to be alive
That my in-laws live only 10 mins. away
Research on the Benefits of Gratefulness: Experimental Findings
The effectiveness of a 10-week, gratitude-based intervention for the treatment of hypertension in low-income, inner-city, African-American patients was compared to a control condition
Patients in the gratitude condition achieved statistically significant decreases in their systolic blood pressures, increases in gratitude, and decreases in hostility
Gratitude and weight loss
Does gratitude journaling facilitate compliance with and success of a weight management program (LIFESTEPS®)?
Participants are enrolled in the Preventive Cardiology program at UCD Medical Center
Is Gratitude a Buffer Against Loneliness and/or Depression?
Gratitude is important in the prevention of depression
Grateful people show a positive memory bias
Gratitude enhances the retrievability of positive experiences (Watkins et al., 2003)
Grateful people are less isolated
Gratitude and Academic Outcomes
Howells (2007) developed a 12-week “Integrated Learning” course
Designed to show university students the relevance of gratitude to academic learning
Gratitude was chosen among other practices; it had the most dramatic effect on ability to study and also on relationships and general well-being
“ Once I had an innermost attitude of gratefulness I found the world to be a different place. The class was not as long and I seemed to be more attentive because I was trying to use my time there more wisely”
Myths About Gratitude
Gratitude just another form of positive thinking .
Gratitude strips people of initiative and leads to complacency or even passive resignation.
It is impossible to be grateful in the midst of suffering.
Does gratitude encourage passivity? No! Gratitude facilitates goal attainment
Participants identified 6 personal goals they intended to pursue in the next 2 months
Academic/vocational, relational, health
Participants in the gratitude condition made 20% more progress, yet were no more satisfied with the progress they had made compared to those in other conditions
What is a grateful person? The grateful person accepts all of life as a gift
There is a difference between feeling grateful and being grateful.
Feeling grateful is a response to a benefit.
Being grateful is a way of life.
Grateful vs. Ungrateful People: Contrasting Worldviews
Lens of abundance vs. lens of scarcity
What life is offering vs. what life is denying
Life as a gift vs. life as a burden
Satisfaction vs. deprivation
If Gratitude Is So Good, Why Is It So Difficult? Obstacles to Gratefulness
Inability to accept dependency
Evidence-Based Prescriptions for Building Gratitude: The Top 10
Keep a gratitude journal
Remember the bad
Build gratitude-supporting thoughts
Identify ungrateful thoughts
Come to your senses
Use visual reminders/cues
Watch your language
Make a vow to practice gratitude
Go through the motions
Think outside the box
The Gratitude Visit
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. Choose someone who is still alive. Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this – several weeks if required. Invite that person to your home or travel to that person’s home. It is important that 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. Bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. Read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.
The Daily Gratitude Inventory
Recall your day
Associate each item with the word gift . Take time to relish and savor this gift.
In what ways might I “give back" to others as an appropriate response for the gratitude I feel?
Mental exercises for cultivating gratitude
Think about the absence of a blessing
Make a “what I take for granted list”
Consider being deprived of a routine pleasure
Why don’t I feel grateful for what I really wanted?
Video: A Good Day
Gratitude is a choice…
“ I believe that life is not always fair. It has certainly been true in my case. It is not fair that I should have wonderful, caring, supportive parents who raised me right, and brothers and sisters that are there when I need them. It’s not fair that I should be blessed with a beautiful, talented wife and together
we should have two equally, beautiful, talented daughters who make us proud daily. No, life is not fair. Why should I have had so many years of good health and energy and good friends to camp and backpack with through the years…ALS is a terrible disease, but it does not negate the rest of my life.” --49 yr. old male with ALS
For more information…
“ 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