WHY GRATITUDE IS SO IMPORTANT !

( post written by MEL who is a talented bachelor student and trainee in Psychology )

Did you ever have those moments where you looked at a situation, a person or an object and you just thought about how grateful you were to be there just in that moment ? Well what if I tell you that gratefulness in your daily life has an impact on your well-being? In fact, in 2008 there was a scientific research ( a meta-analysis reviewing sevral other researches on the same topic) done by Yoichi Chida and Andrew Steptoe that could confirm that an individual’s well-being has a positive effect on the continuation of their life. In 2011, Carr also found out that gratefulness has positive effects on our mental health. Gratefulness has also effects on physical health in the sense that it prevents mental illnesses and their consequences (Hill et al., 2013). Fredrickson (2004) even discovered that gratitude has the benefit of preparing people for difficult times so that its impact does not have too great a consequence on our psychological health. Gratitude, the art of focusing and being grateful for what happens in a positive way in our life is an important aspect of positive psychology (Seligman 2011). While traditional therapies tend to focus on understanding sources of not well being, dealing with pathology and developing ressources and strategies for healing and future better coping, the goal of positive psychology is to build happiness and well-being by focusing on positive aspects and ressources.

But how is gratefulness able to have such an impact on us and reduce stress and make people happy ? Gratitude influences moods in a positive way through neurochemical processes that happen in the brain: to be more precise dopamine and serotonin (both responsible for the feeling of happiness) are the allies of gratitude which give us the necessary resources to face future difficult situations. Those who practice positive psychology attempt psychological interventions that foster positive attitudes towards one’s subjective experiences, individual traits and life experiences. The goal is to minimize pathological negative thoughts that might arise in difficult situations and to dvelop a sens of optimism towards world and life. Positive psychologists seek to encourage acceptance of one’s past, excitement and optimism about one’s future experiences, and a sense of contentment and well-being in the present

Here are a few exercises that can be done daily to make gratitude a part of your everyday life:

  • Keeping a journal about all the things you are grateful for or talking about it with loved ones is an easy way to keep in mind the thing that make you happy and you are thankful for in life. . For example write down 3 things you are thankful for that happened that day before going to bed.
  • For your kids : Writing a “thank you” letter to people they appreciate by noting what exactly they appreciate in general or on a special occasion, is an excellent way for young children to practice gratitude at an early stage.. A 2014 study found that writing a gratitude letter contributed to young children’s (7-11) awareness of positive social exchanges
  • For couples : As a relationship ages, we sometimes take the things we love about our partners for granted. Practicing gratitude by naming or writing regularily what we do appreciate about the other and his/her actions, is a great way to show your partner that you appreciate them, while improving the quality of your relationship
  • Meditation is also a perfect way to cultivate gratefulness because it allows us to focus on the moment and to only take the present into account and to focus on the different things that you are grateful for.

References

Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive Psychological Well-Being and Mortality: A Quantitative Review of Prospective Observational Studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(7), 741–756. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0b013e31818105ba

Giving thanks can make you happier – Harvard Health. (2011, November 22). Harvard Health; Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Froh, J. J., Bono, G., Fan, J., Emmons, R. A., Henderson, K., Harris, C., … & Wood, A. M. (2014). Nice thinking! An educational intervention that teaches children to think gratefully. School Psychology Review, 43(2), 132.

Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(1), 92–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011

Roy Chowdhury, M. (2021, May 26). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press.

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 279-298). Springer, Dordrecht. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: The benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 7(11), 18.

Sztachańska, J., Krejtz, I., & Nezlek, J. B. (2019). Using a Gratitude Intervention to Improve the Lives of Women With Breast Cancer: A Daily Diary Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01365