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									   What Good is
Gratitude? Insights
from the Science of
    Well-Being


        Robert A. Emmons
        February 17 th, 2010
            Contact:
     raemmons@ucdavis.edu
      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 heal,
to energize, and
to change lives.
         Gratitude:

• Affirming goodness and
  recognizing that the sources of this
  goodness are outside the self
     Two main questions:
1. Can gratitude be cultivated on
   a regular basis? How?
2. 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
1. Health and well-being
2. Career success and
   income levels
3. Relationship duration
   and satisfaction
     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
What Determines Happiness?


           Circumstances
               10%




                           Set Point
    Intentional              50%
      Activity
       40%
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

• Psychological (Positive emotions: alert,
  energetic, enthused, attentive)
• Physical (more exercise, better sleep, fewer
  symptoms)
• Interpersonal (more helpful and connected,
  less lonely and isolated)

Source: R.A. Emmons & M.E. McCullough, Journal of Personality and
   Social Psychology, 2003, 84, 377-389.
         Gratitude is sexy…
• “Strengths of character”
  including the capacity to
  love and be loved,
  wisdom, spirituality,
  kindness, forgiveness and
  gratitude are highly
  desirable traits in a
  romantic partner
 (Journal of Adolescence, 2003)
Does gratitude promote an
  athlete’s well-being?

          Grateful athletes
          are more satisfied
          with their team and
          show less athlete
          burnout
          (Source: Social
          Indicators Research,
          2008)
 Does counting
  blessings impact
  children’s well-
  being?
 Gratitude
  intervention with 6th
  and 7th graders
 The gratitude induction was related to
  optimism, overall life satisfaction, and
  domain-specific life satisfaction (e.g., school
  experience, residency)
 The gratitude group reported greater
  satisfaction with their school experience at
  both the immediate post-test and 3-week
  follow-up
 Journal of School Psychology, 2008
What Good is Gratitude?
1. Gratitude maximizes
   enjoyment
2. Gratitude blocks
   toxic emotions
   (envy, resentment,
   regret, depression)
3. Gratitude is an
   element of
   psychological capital
4. Gratitude
   strengthens social
   ties and self-worth
Gratitude Amplifies the Good
               Gratitude lowers blood
               pressure

   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
1. Gratitude just another form of
   positive thinking.
2. Gratitude strips people of initiative
   and leads to complacency or even
   passive resignation.
3. 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
  Pervasive negativity
  Entitlement
  Distractions/Forgetfulness
  Inability to accept dependency
  Suffering
Evidence-Based Prescriptions for
Building Gratitude: The Top 10

1. Keep a gratitude journal
2. Remember the bad
3. Build gratitude-supporting
   thoughts
4. Identify ungrateful thoughts
5. Come to your senses
6. Use visual
    reminders/cues
7. Watch your
    language
8. Make a vow to
    practice gratitude
9. Go through the
    motions
10. 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
1. Recall your day
2. Associate each item with the word gift.
   Take time to relish and savor this gift.
3. In what ways might I “give back" to
   others as an appropriate response for the
   gratitude I feel?
  Mental exercises for cultivating
            gratitude
1. Think about the absence of a blessing
2. Make a “what I take for granted list”
3. Consider being deprived of a routine
   pleasure
4. 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

								
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