CREDOS: Gratitude — III

Emmons notes that grateful people are not ones who take a Pollyannaish view of the world. In studies, people who score highly on various indicators of gratefulness also report strong awareness of the bad in their own lives and in society. In fact, some research finds that grateful people may be slightly more likely to be cynical than the population as a whole. But they achieve the ability to be wary of life’s problems and yet thankful for the ways in which the actions of others lighten their burdens.

Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments supposed that people who did not feel gratitude were only cheating themselves out of happiness in life. Grateful people are not necessarily ones whom the world has showered with gifts; people of modest financial means may report themselves as grateful, while the well-to-do may exhibit little gratitude.

“To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is great,” Emmons says. “It means we are aware of our blessings. If you only think about your disappointments, you may be prone to unhappiness. If you’re aware of your disappointments but also thankful for the good that has happened, you may show higher indices of well-being.” Psychologist Dan McAdams says he became interested in gratitude when he saw studies suggesting that increasing a person’s sense of thankfulness could lead to lower stress and better “outcomes,” meaning success in career and relationships. —