Skip to main content

What Good Is Gratitude?

  • 2605 Accesses

Abstract

If gratitude is indeed worthy of study in positive psychology, then research should demonstrate that gratitude is important to the good life. If gratitude amplifies the good, then gratitude should enhance well-being. In this chapter I explore this issue by investigating the relationships between gratitude in three areas of well-being: emotional, social, and physical. Both correlation and experimental studies provide solid support for the theory that gratitude enhances emotional and social well-being. Furthermore, preliminary research offers promising results that gratitude supports various aspects of physical health as well. Taken together, research suggests that gratitude is one of the most important aspects of human flourishing.

Keywords

  • Life Satisfaction
  • Positive Affect
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Happy People
  • Global Happiness

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed.

–C. S. Lewis (1958, p. 95)

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-7253-3_4
  • Chapter length: 17 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-94-007-7253-3
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 4.1

References

  • Abel, E. K., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Adler, M. G., & Fagley, N. S. (2005). Appreciation: Individual differences in finding value and meaning as a unique predictor of subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 73, 79–113.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, N. H. (1968). Likableness ratings of 555 personality-trait words. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 272–279.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Beecher, H. W. (n. d.). Henry Ward Beecher. Retrieved July 28, 2006, from Wisdom Quotes http://www.wisdomquotes.com/002943.html

  • Chen, L. H., & Kee, Y. H. (2008). Gratitude and adolescent athletes’ well-being. Social Indicators Research, 89, 361–373.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, R. D. (1975). The effects of reinforcement, punishment and dependency on helping behavior. Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 596–599.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Comte-Sponville, A. (2002). A small treatise on the great virtues. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Danner, D. D., Snowden, D. A., & Friesen, W. V. (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 804–813.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Deutsch, F. M., & Lamberti, D. M. (1986). Does social approval increase helping? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 149–157.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E. (2008). Myths in the science of happiness, and directions for future research. In M. Eid & R. J. Larson (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 493–514). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Dumas, J. R., Johnson, M., & Lynch, A. M. (2002). Likableness, familiarity, and frequency of 844 person-descriptive words. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 523–531.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An empirical investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fordyce, M. W. (1988). A review of research on the happiness measures: A sixty second index of happiness and mental health. Social Indicators Research, 20, 355–381.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science, 13, 172–175.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., & Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237–258.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Froh, J. J., Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., Wood, A., Henderson, K. A., Fan, J. et al. (under review). Nice thinking! An educational intervention that teaches children how to think gratefully [Special Issue: Theoretical Frameworks in School Psychology Intervention Research: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Future Directions]. School Psychology Review.

    Google Scholar 

  • Froh, J. J., Kashdan, T. B., Ozimkowski, K. M., & Miller, N. (2009). Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention in children and adolescents? Examining positive affect as a moderator. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 408–422.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 213–233.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Froh, J. J., Yurkewicz, C., & Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescents: Examining gender differences. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 633–650.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Geraghty, A. W. A., Wood, A. M., & Hyland, M. E. (2010a). Attrition from self-directed interventions: Investigating the relationship between psychological predictors, intervention content and dropout from a body dissatisfaction intervention. Social Science & Medicine, 71, 30–37.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Geraghty, A. W. A., Wood, A. M., & Hyland, M. E. (2010b). Dissociating the facets of hope: Agency and pathways predict dropout from unguided self-help therapy in opposite directions. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 155–158.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Grenier, S. G., Emmons, R. A., & Ivie, S. (2007, August). Gratitude and quality of life in transplant recipients. Presentation to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco.

    Google Scholar 

  • Isen, A. M., Niedenthal, P. M., & Cantor, N. (1992). An influence of positive affect on social categorization. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 65–78.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Isen, A. M., & Shalker, T. E. (1982). The effect of feeling state on evaluation of positive, neutral, and negative stimuli: When you “accentuate the positive”, do you “eliminate the negative”? Social Psychology Quarterly, 45, 58–63.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Isen, A. M., Shalker, T. E., Clark, M., & Karp, L. (1978). Affect, accessibility of material in memory, and behavior: A cognitive loop? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1–12.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kendler, K. S., Liu, X.-Q., Gardener, C. O., McCullough, M. E., Larson, D., & Prescott, C. A. (2003). Dimensions of religiosity and their relationship to lifetime psychiatric and substance use disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 496–503.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kok, B. E., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010, September 22). Upward spirals of the heart: Autonomic flexibility, as indexed by vagal tone, reciprocally and prospectively predicts positive emotions and social connectedness. Biological Psychology, 85, 432–436.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krause, N. (2006). Gratitude toward God, stress, and health in late life. Research on Aging, 28, 163–183.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Krause, N. (2007). Self-expression symptoms and depression in late life. Research on Aging, 29, 187–206.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Krause, N. (2009). Religious involvement, gratitude, and change in depressive symptoms over time. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 19, 155–172.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kuykendall, D., Keating, J. P., & Wagaman, J. (1988). Assessing affective states: A new methodology for some old problems. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 12, 279–294.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lau, R. W. L., & Cheng, S. (2011). Gratitude lessens death anxiety. European Journal of Ageing, 8, 169–175.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, C. S. (1958). Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K., & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: An experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being. Emotion, 11, 391–402.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Martinez-Marti, M. L., Avia, M. D., & Hernandex-Lloreta, M. J. (2010). The effects of counting blessings on subjective well-being: A gratitude intervention in a Spanish sample. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13, 886–896.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McCabe, K., Bray, M. A., Kehle, T. J., Theodore, L. A., & Gelbar, N. W. (2011). Promoting happiness and life satisfaction in school children. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 26, 177–192.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McComb, D., Watkins, P., & Kolts, R. (2004, April). Personality and happiness: The importance of gratitude. Presentation to the 84th annual convention of the Western Psychological Association, Phoenix, AZ.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Gratitude as moral affect. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249–266.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., Kimeldorf, M. B., & Cohen, A. D. (2008). An adaptation for altruism? The social causes, social effects, and social evolution of gratitude. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 281–285.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McCullough, M. E., & Tsang, J. (2004). Parent of the virtues? The prosocial contours of gratitude. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.), The psychology of gratitude (pp. 123–141). New York: Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McGovern, L. P., Ditzian, J. L., & Taylor, S. P. (1975). The effect of positive reinforcement on helping with cost. Psychonomic Society Bulletin, 5, 421–423.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moss, M. K., & Page, R. A. (1972). Reinforcement and helping behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2, 360–371.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Otey-Scott, S. (2008). A lesson in gratitude: Exploring the salutogenic relationship between gratitude and health. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 68(8-B), 5586.

    Google Scholar 

  • Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2006). Character strengths and happiness among young children: Content analysis of parental descriptions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 323–341.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 603–619.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beerman, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 149–156.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pressman, S. D., & Cohen, S. (2011). Positive emotion word use and longevity in famous deceased psychologists. Health Psychology, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025339.

  • Rind, B., & Bordia, P. (1995). Effects of servers “thank you” and personalization on restaurant tipping. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 745–751.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shipon, R. F. (2007). Gratitude: Effect on perspectives and blood pressure of inner-city African American hypertensive patients. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 68(3-B), 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spangler, K., Webber, A., Xiong, I., & Watkins, P. C. (2008, April). Gratitude predicts enhanced happiness. Presentation to the national conference on Undergraduate Research, Salisbury, MD.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suls, J., Witenberg, S., & Gutkin, D. (1981). Evaluating reciprocal and nonreciprocal prosocial behavior: Developmental trends. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7, 225–231.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Teasdale, J. D. (1983). Negative thinking in depression: Cause, effect, or reciprocal relationship? Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 5, 3–25.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, M., & Watkins, P. (2003, May). Measuring the grateful trait: Development of the revised GRAT. Presentation to the 83rd annual convention of the Western Psychological Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • Toepfer, S. M., Cichy, K., & Peters, P. (2011). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 187–201. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9257-7.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Toussaint, L., & Friedman, P. (2009). Forgiveness, gratitude, and well-being: The mediating role of affect and beliefs. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 635–654.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Feldman Barret, L. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1161–1190.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P. C., Martin, B. D., & Faulkner, G. (2003, May). Are grateful people happy people? Informant judgments of grateful acquaintances. Presentation to the 83rd annual convention of the Western Psychological Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P. C., Neal, M., & Thomas, M. (2004, July). Grateful recall and positive memory bias: Relationship to subjective well-being. Poster presented to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, HI.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P. C., & Ola, D. (2001, August). Gratitude and depression: How a human strength might mitigate human adversity. In R. A. Emmons (Chair), Gratitude and positive emotionality as links between social and clinical science. Symposium presented at the 109th annual convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P. C., Uhder, Y., Pichinevskiy, S., Sparrow, A., Jensen, C., & Pereira, A. (2012, May). Gratitude “Three Blessings” treatment produces improved well-being: The importance of positive memory accessibility. Poster presented at the annual convention for the Association of Psychological Science, Chicago.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. D. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: The development of a measure of gratitude and its relationship with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 431–452.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 890–905.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2008). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43–48.

    PubMed  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the five factor model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 49–54.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 854–871.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Watkins, P.C. (2014). What Good Is Gratitude?. In: Gratitude and the Good Life. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7253-3_4

Download citation