“Gratitude is fertilizer for well-being.”                    

Kenneth Nowack

If you want to change the world, have a lasting impact on your community, create a meaningful and psychological healthy workplace, develop a safe community, loving family or meaningful partnership–it all starts with you.

Several research studies have focused on the power of gratitude giving as a necessary condition for developing self esteem and enhanced social ties.

The Evidence for the Gratitude Affect

Psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues have focused on a variety of psychological interventions that increase individual happiness1. In a 6-group, random-assignment, placebo-controlled Internet study, he tested 5 happiness interventions and one control exercise. They found that 3 of the interventions significantly increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for as long as 6 months.

Two of the exercises (using “signature strengths” in a new way and writing about three good things that went well each day) increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months. Another exercise, the “gratitude visit,” was associated with significant and positive mood changes for 30 days. The other tested exercises and the placebo control created positive but only transient effects on happiness and depressive symptoms.

Another psychologist, Robert Emmons, from US Davis and his colleagues have also extensively studied the impact of gratitude2.

In one study adults with neuromuscular disorders, were asked to keep a gratitude journal every day for two weeks.  They were asked to focus on several things each day that they were thankful about and to write about what things in their life they saw as positive and meaningful.

Participants in the “gratitude condition” showed significantly more optimism and life satisfaction than a control group.  Interestingly, the researchers reported that spouses of study participants (i.e., people in the gratitude condition) seemed significantly happier than those in the control group.  Not only did focusing on gratitude change attitudes, it also apparently changed behavior of those in the study.

Gratitude Exercises

Giving gratitude is something we can develop and make an automatic part of our day.  Here are two evidenced-based gratitude exercises that have been proven by Seligman, Emmons and other researchers to enhance psychological well-being, social ties and life satisfaction.

1. Gratitude Journal:  For two weeks, write down each day several things you are truly grateful for and explain why in your own person journal.

2. Gratitude Gift.  Identify someone in your life you truly value who has contributed to your life success in some way.  This person can be a family member, friend, teacher, or another person who has touched you in a positive and significant way and whom you have not probably acknowledged in a heart felt manner.  Write a letter to this person describing what they have done to influence your life and why–mail it or deliver it in person.

Perhaps we can all make a step towards making our lives and those around us a bit better by first giving gratitude for what we do have….as Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”…..Be well….

  1. Seligman, M., P, Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421 []
  2. Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003).  Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-38 []

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Relate

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