Psychology of gratitude: the benefits of being grateful

Gratitude has more of an impact on our lives than we realize. In this article we will see what positive psychology tells us about the habit of being grateful.

    Psychology of Gratitude: Thanksgiving

    Each year on different dates the United States and Canada celebrate Thanksgiving, originally known as Thanksgiving. Americans celebrate it on the last Thursday in November, while on Canadian soil, the second Monday in October.

    Its origin takes place in Plymouth, in 1621, when a group of pilgrims shared their fall harvest with the Wampanoag Indians, as a thank you for teaching them cultivation and hunting techniques. This celebration of harmony and gratitude between pilgrims and Native Americans lasted for three days.

    Several years later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this distant event as a national holiday in 1863, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. However, it was not officially created by the United States National Congress until 1941, under the command of President Franklin Roosevelt.

    Nowadays, this tradition is to gather as a family at the table and dine on a turkey roasted or baked, which is the main course; in addition, salads, bread and cakes serve as an accompaniment. This evening, homes are enjoying a special time where each member shares and thanks their blessings.

      A new meaning to be grateful

      According to an ethical and philosophical view, gratitude is defined as a moral virtue that denotes good behavior (McCullogh, Kilpatrick, Emmons & Larson, 2001); because it is a feeling of esteem that leads us to correspond to the benefit that has been given to us or that has been wanted to be given to us, according to the Royal Spanish Academy. However, there is more to gratitude than just the desire to respond to a good deed.

      Positive psychology, which scientifically studies everything that offers psychological well-being, began researching the effects of gratitude in the late 1990s, Via Robert Emmons of the University of California and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami.

      This study consisted in forming three groups of people, distributed at random, with the indication to keep a weekly diary. The first group should write in their journal the things for which they are grateful; the second, he wrote down anything that made them angry; while the third group would focus on neutral events. After ten weeks, the results revealed that people who wrote only grace had better health than the rest of the participants.

      Northrup (2012) says that when we find something to be grateful for, no matter how small, and we maintain that feeling of gratitude for 15-20 seconds, our body undergoes several subtle and beneficial physiological changes, For example: reducing stress levels and strengthening the immune system; better blood circulation; the heart rate harmonizes and the breathing becomes deeper, thus increasing the amount of oxygen in the tissues.

      Developing gratitude takes willpower and discipline, just like any other activity, so continued practice produces physical and emotional benefits. In this way, grateful people could see the positive side even in times of suffering, valuing these elements to integrate them into their existence.

      So gratitude it implies a balanced view of the positive and negative aspects of the experience (Moyano, 2011). Faced with the circumstances of life, a grateful response can be an adaptive psychological strategy, that is, an ability to adapt to these circumstances, so it can also be an important development for the person to positively interpret his everyday experiences (McCullough & Emmons, 2003).

      How to cultivate gratitude

      You can start by spending a few minutes before bed, Think about everything that happened to you on the day when you can thank, perhaps for this meeting with your friends, for having this coat that protects you from the cold when you leave your home, for the message he gave you in a good mood, for the family, to have yourself that you are alive and in good health.

      For all these experiences and decisions that have brought you so far; because even from bad experiences you learn, you gain maturity, you strengthen your character and they prepare you to make better decisions tomorrow. You can do this practice as often as you like, until it becomes part of you to identify the blessings around you.

      Being truly and sincerely grateful opens the door to better health, as well as the promotion of a good relationship with yourself and others. So, beyond the second Monday in October or the last Thursday in November, make each day a Thanksgiving.

      Bibliographical references:

      • McCullough, M. and Emmons, R. (2003). Moods grateful for differences and the individual’s daily emotional experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 377-389.
      • McCullough, M .; Kilpatrick, S .; Emmons, R. and Larson, D. (2001). Is gratitude a moral effect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.
      • Moyano N. (2011). Gratitude in positive psychology. Psychodebate, 10, 103-117.
      • Northrup C. (2012). Female body, female wisdom (personal growth). Retrieved November 15, 2018, from: http://offermaxs.com/download/e/ libro.php? Asin = 8479537485
      • Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (2017). Spanish language dictionary. Madrid: RAE.
      • Valence, J. (2016). Origins of positive psychology and the scientific study of gratitude. Tower. Psicol., 101-117.

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