CREDOS: Gratitude — I

For those who are religious, gratefulness before God is indispensable. And kids, when you get presents, you simply must send thank-you notes! But that’s about it for gratitude, which has never finished high on the list of sentiments men and women are taught to cultivate, nor attracted many researchers studying elements central to psychological health.

What if that view is wrong? Suppose thankfulness were not only among our most important positive emotions, but one that links directly to physical and mental well-being. Suppose it is in our self-interest to feel gratitude because it makes us better people. Surprisingly, that is what research is beginning to indicate.

Consider what recent academic studies have shown. People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others and either to God or to creation in general tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole. These results hold even when researchers factor out such things as age, health, and income, equalising for the fact that the young, the well-to-do, or the hale and hearty might have “more to be grateful for.”

Grateful people tend to be less materialistic than the population as a whole and to suffer less anxiety about status or the accumulation of possessions. Partly because of this, they are more likely to describe themselves as happy or satisfied in life. —