Gratitude | Positive Psychology Concepts Series

Photo credits: Gabrielle Henderson

Author: Katya Santucci

This blog has been reviewed by Elizabeth Razzouk and Catherine Cimon-Paquet, edited by Rémi Thériault

A simple exercise could calm the mind and bring about inner peace…

The science behind gratitude

Reflecting on what you are thankful for creates sensational feelings of happiness, positivity and sanctity…

Existing research has documented the many associations between gratitude and positive outcomes. For example, gratitude has been associated with greater life satisfaction, self-esteem, goal-attainment and overall well-being (1). It has also been linked with greater prosocial actions (e.g. volunteering, donating) which also leads to increased personal satisfaction. A striking finding is that gratitude can impactfully help one cope with stressors, both acute and chronic (2). It also contributes to the development of resilience in the face of adversities. In addition, the expression of gratitude can extend to interpersonal relationships; this occurs when one is grateful for the actions of another person in their life. In fact, researchers have identified gratitude as a social emotion given the positive impact it has on social bonds (2). Acknowledging and reciprocating grateful feelings for one another offers many relational benefits such as fostering relationship closeness and maintenance (3). In a nutshell, research suggests that having a grateful outlook is associated with greater physical and mental health and more intimate social relations.

Gratitude contributes to the development of resilience in the face of adversities

Gratitude journaling is a common method for implementing appreciation in everyday life and making it part of your routine. It entails documenting, for example on a piece of paper or notepad (i.e., a “journal”), the instances in which you’ve felt grateful in the past or present. In a longitudinal randomized controlled study, researchers concluded that a traditional journal — in which individuals documented what they were grateful for on a specific day — had positive effects on both subjective well-being and relationship quality (4). Gratitude journaling has also been linked with self-clarity and self-awareness as it directs your attention to what you truly value. In another light, gratitude lettering is a method of expressing gratitude for a significant or close other (i.e., by writing a gratitude letter to another person, whether you decide to send it or not). In this case, you are addressing a specific individual and relaying your gratitude for them — for example, they may have touched your life with their words or actions, which may be something you wish to share with them.

Photo credits: Sorin Sirbu
  1. Today, I am grateful that I get to sleep in clean sheets.
  2. Today, I am grateful for my boyfriend who always checks in on me.

With time, you will begin to recognize the little things you have taken for granted and learn to hold on to them.

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  1. Emmons, R. A. & Mishra, A. (2011). Why gratitude enhances wellbeing: What we know, what we need to know. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 248–262). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 11(1), 52.
  3. O’Connell, B. H., O’Shea, D., & Gallagher, S. (2017). Examining psychosocial pathways underlying gratitude interventions: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Happiness Studies. 1–24.

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