About these endnotes
This is where we provide references and in-depth information about everything in the Gratitude playbook.
We honor and thank the scientists whose research inspired this Playbook. In particular, we thank Giacomo Bono for his exceptionally helpful comments. Any errors or omissions are ours.
Gratitude comes from the realization that you’ve received something positive and, in addition, that someone other than you was the cause (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).
Gratitude is among the most commonly endorsed character strengths. Across 54 different nations, gratitude was endorsed more strongly than 20 other strengths, superseded only by kindness, fairness and honesty (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006).
Some scientists argue that gratitude does not require recognizing a specific benefactor. For example, you might be grateful because you woke up this morning. Accordingly, gratitude is sometimes conceived as a tendency to notice and appreciate good things in the world (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). Regardless, feeling grateful makes us want to be generous towards, and build relationships with, our perceived benefactors as well as other people (Algoe, Haidt, & Gable, 2008).
See Miranda (2015). Lin-Manuel Miranda is the American composer, playwright, and actor who created the record-breaking, precedent-setting Broadway hit Hamilton. Miranda has won Pulitzer, Tony, Grammy and Emmy awards. He is also a MacArthur Fellow.
How grateful we feel depends on how we interpret beneficial acts. Specifically, we feel more grateful to people when they do things we believe are valuable, provided at some sacrifice, and motivated by altruism (Wood, Maltby, Stewart, Linley, & Joseph, 2008).
Gratitude is important not only for maintaining relationships (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis,& Keltner, 2012; Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010) but also for building new, stronger and higher-quality relationships (Algoe, 2012; Algoe, Haidt, & Gable, 2008).
A plethora of studies confirms the layman’s intuition that the disposition to experience gratitude is associated with well-being, that is with life satisfaction, happiness or optimism (Davis et al., 2016; Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Renshaw & Olinger Steeves, 2016; Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010).
A meta-analysis of 91 studies shows a statistical significant association between gratitude and prosocial intentions and behaviors: grateful people are more likely to actively promote the wellbeing of others (Ma, Tunney, & Ferguson, 2017), even when helping is costly or the beneficiary is a stranger. (Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Grant & Gino, 2010; Tsang, 2006).
For related ideas, see 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), 132-152. For more inspiration, see Froh and Bono (2014).
Writing a Gratitude Letter increases well-being, and benefits are enhanced by reading the letter to the person you’re thanking. (Kumar & Epley, 2018; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005; Toepfer, Cichy, & Peters, 2012; Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003). This applies to adolescents as well (Froh, Kashdan, Ozimkowski, & Miller, 2009).
Evidence that writing about your blessings can increase psychological and physical well-being dates to a seminal investigation by Emmons and McCullough (2003). Compared to writing about hassles or either neutral events or social comparisons, writing about blessings heightened positive emotion, optimism about the future, and time spent exercising while reducing the number of self-reported health problems (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). These benefits have since been confirmed by other researchers (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). While the majority of research on gratitude has focused on adults, there is also evidence that when adolescents keep a gratitude journal, they become more academically engaged and, in addition, feel more grateful, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives (Froh, Emmons, Card, Bono, & Wilson, 2011; Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).
See Lorde and Clarke, 1984, p.31. Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist and civil rights activist.
Completing the Three Good Things activity for one week has been shown to increase happiness for at least six months (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Compared to keeping a Gratitude Journal, listing three specific good things that happened during the day can help prevent “gratitude fatigue,” the paradoxical finding that writing about blessings every day seems to be less effective than writing about blessings only three times per week (Emmons, 2013; Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005).
Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455-469.
Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8(3), 425-429.
Bartlett, M. Y., & DeSteno, D. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: Helping when it costs you. Psychological science, 17(4), 319-325.
Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., … & Worthington Jr, E. L. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 20-31.
Emmons, R. A. (2013). Gratitude works!: A 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389.
Froh, J. J., Emmons, R. A., Card, N. A., Bono, G., & Wilson, J. A. (2011). Gratitude and the reduced costs of materialism in adolescents. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(2), 289-302.
Froh, J. J., Kashdan, T. B., Ozimkowski, K. M., & Miller, N. (2009). Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention in children and adolescents? Examining positive affect as a moderator. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(5), 408-422.
Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2), 213-233.
Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(2), 257.
Grant, A. M., & Gino, F. (2010). A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(6), 946-955.
Kumar, A., & Epley, N. (2018). Undervaluing gratitude: Expressers misunderstand the consequences of showing appreciation. Psychological Science, 1-13.
Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude: Expressing gratitude to a partner changes one’s view of the relationship. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574-580.
Lorde, A., & Clarke, C. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. New York: Crossing Press.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.
Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. (2017). Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 143(6), 601–635.
McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. A. (2002). The grateful disposition: a conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112-127.
Miranda, L. (2015). On Hamilton: An american musical. New York: Atlantic Records.
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Character strengths in fifty-four nations and the fifty US states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(3), 118-129.
Renshaw, T. L., & Olinger Steeves, R. M. (2016). What good is gratitude in youth and schools? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of correlates and intervention outcomes. Psychology in the Schools, 53(3), 286-305.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.
Toepfer, S. M., Cichy, K., & Peters, P. (2012). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 187–201.
Tsang, J. A. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behaviour: An experimental test of gratitude. Cognition & Emotion, 20(1), 138-148.
Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 431−451.
Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890-905.
Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). A social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude. Emotion, 8(2), 281-290.