Ruminating on the Positive: Paths from Trait Positive Emotionality to Event-Specific Gratitude

Abstract

Positive emotions and gratitude are essential contributors to happiness and well-being, but how trait tendencies toward positive emotionality and gratitude differ in predicting event-specific gratitude are poorly understood. Furthermore, no research has examined whether people who exhibit greater trait tendencies toward positive emotions or gratitude experience greater event-specific gratitude in response to positive events, or whether cognitively amplifying positive emotions in response to positive events mediates these relationships to enhance event-specific gratitude experiences. Our 8-week, prospective study of 145 adults examined whether greater trait positive emotionality and greater trait gratitude would distinctly predict greater event-specific gratitude as mediated by two types of positive rumination (self-focused and emotion-focused) in response to positive events. Hierarchical linear modeling indicated that when considered jointly, greater trait positive emotionality predicted greater event-specific gratitude, and greater emotion-focused positive rumination mediated the effects of trait positive emotionality on event-specific gratitude. Findings supported that individuals with greater trait positive emotionality were more likely to positively ruminate about positive emotional experiences and this partially explained their increase in event-specific gratitude. Findings also suggested that trait positive emotionality and trait gratitude are distinct but related constructs that differentially relate to event-specific gratitude. In the pursuit of happiness and well-being, literature on gratitude interventions may benefit from incorporating emotion-focused positive rumination strategies to promote gratitude in response to positive events.

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Correspondence to Kaitlin A. Harding.

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Harding, K.A., Murphy, K.M. & Mezulis, A. Ruminating on the Positive: Paths from Trait Positive Emotionality to Event-Specific Gratitude. J Happiness Stud 20, 101–117 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9940-4

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Keywords

  • Gratitude
  • Positive emotion
  • Positive rumination
  • Rumination