Strengths of Heart

Gratitude is the appreciation for the benefits we receive from others, and the desire to reciprocate.

Those who demonstrate gratitude—and those who don’t—see life differently. Individuals demonstrating gratitude tend to emphasize language related to gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. Individuals who don’t demonstrate gratitude, on the other hand, tend to focus on deprivation, deservingness, regrets, lack, need, scarcity, and loss. For instance, a grateful person might say, “I get to go to class today,” whereas an ungrateful person might say, “Why do I have to learn all this useless stuff?”

Observing Gratitude

Feeling or demonstrating gratitude could involve:

  • Recognizing what other people do for you
  • Showing appreciation for opportunities
  • Expressing appreciation by saying thank you or doing nice things for people

What the Research Says

Dr. Robert Emmons of UC Davis talks about gratitude.

Overall, gratitude is important and correlated with positive life outcomes. In clinical settings, adults can build gratitude and improve upon it. Research shows that when you are reflecting on gratitude, it’s most effective when you are specific. Instead of saying, “I’m grateful for my mom,” try saying, “I’m grateful that my mom makes me breakfast every day.”

Studies show that in early adolescence, gratitude is positively related to hope, forgiveness, pride, contentment, optimism, inspiration, and global positive affect. It also has a positive effect on satisfaction with school, family, friends, community, and self. At this time, we still don’t know exactly how gratitude is cultivated nor what it looks like across a variety of developmental stages.

Keep Exploring Gratitude