The Benefits of Expressing Gratitude for Life and Others

    Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
    William Arthur Ward

    Expressing gratitude can lead to significant increases in subjective, psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being; the benefits of expressing gratitude are many.

    Hill et al (2013) postulated that grateful individuals are better able to form social bonds, utilize coping skills to defer stress, maintain positive affect, and are more creative in problem-solving. Bartlett (2012) suggested gratitude is related to increases in relationship satisfaction, social affiliation, and facilitates socially inclusive behaviors, even when those actions come at a personal cost to oneself.

    Social Benefits

    The expression of gratitude plays a pivotal role in building and maintaining social relationships. Research into the role of gratitude in real, ongoing, relationships looked at naturally occurring gratitude in college sororities during a week of anonymous gift-giving from existing members to new members (Little Sisters).

    Little Sisters’ gratitude was found to be a predictor of their feelings of integration within the sorority and indicated gratitude is about more than repaying benefits; it is about building relationships and aiding the integration and cooperation of group members.

    Gratitude serves the social function of promoting relationships with others who are responsive to our likes and dislikes, our needs and preferences, helping us get through difficult times and flourish in good times (Algoe, Haidt & Gable, 2008).

    Additionally, expressions of gratitude also increase prosocial behavior (behaviors that are intended to benefit others) by enabling individuals to feel social worth and support while simultaneously reducing their feelings of uncertainty about whether they can help effectively (Grant & Gino, 2010).

    Well-being

    Experiencing gratitude is one component that contributes to the fostering of positive feelings, contributing to one’s overall sense of well-being. Emmons and McCullough (2003) examined the emotional benefits of gratitude and the link to well-being. Participant groups kept a daily or weekly journal under three experimental conditions: ‘negative life events’, ‘things I am grateful for’ and ‘neutral life events’.

    Across the study conditions, the gratitude sub-sample consistently showed higher self-reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, attentiveness, determination and energy in comparison with the other two study groups.

    Additionally, gratitude is connected to our self-esteem – Kong, Ding, & Zhao (2015) revealed a significant path from gratitude to overall life satisfaction through social support and self-esteem among undergraduate students.

    Gratitude expression is uniquely important to psychological well-being and linked to enhanced positive emotions, resilience, better coping skills, and an improved ability to manage stress, and an increase in happiness (Sansone & Sansone, 2010. Wood, Joseph, & Maltby, 2009).

    Happiness is subjective; the essence of what it means to be happy will almost certainly differ depending on who you ask. What is more absolute is that we all want to be happy regardless of what our own definitions may be.

    Peterson et al. (2005) suggested the tendency to pursue happiness via the route of gratitude is a way to live ‘the good life’. This was compounded by Lashani, Shaeiri, Asghari-Moghadam, & Golzari, (2012) who concluded that gratitude can increase positive affectivity, happiness and optimism.

    Physical Health Benefits

    Gratitude expression correlates positively with self-reported physical health and, through the mediation of psychological health, increases healthy activities and willingness to seek help for health concerns (Hill, Allemand & Roberts, 2013).

    Studies aimed at investigating the efficacy of recording gratitude yielded impressive findings in terms of positive subjective outcomes. Emmons & McCullough (2003) found that individuals who kept and updated gratitude journals on a weekly basis reported fewer physical symptoms while feeling better about their lives in general and more optimistic about the future.