Evidence-Based Wellbeing Series: The Science of Gratitude
Everything we do at chnnl is evidenced-based, including our team challenges – so why did we choose Gratitude?
Lets take a look at what the evidence and published literature says:
Several authors have explored the theoretical link between gratitude and well-being, which appears quite intuitive.
"The act of experiencing gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation tends to cultivate positive emotions, consequently contributing to an individual's overall sense of well-being. Hence, gratitude is recognized as a key component among several factors influencing one's well-being."
Furthermore, empirical studies conducted in the early 21st century support this theoretical connection.
One notable study by Emmons and McCullough investigated gratitude and well-being through three experimental conditions. Participants were divided into groups tasked with journaling about either negative events, things they were grateful for, or neutral life events on a daily or weekly basis.
"Across these conditions, the gratitude group consistently exhibited higher levels of well-being compared to the other two groups."
Dickerhoof devised an experiment where students could participate in exercises aimed at boosting happiness or cognitive exercises. Both groups were informed that participation would likely enhance their overall sense of well-being. The happiness group engaged in activities related to optimism or gratitude, while the control group wrote about past weeks events.
"As expected, the happiness group displayed increased well-being compared to the control group."
In another study, Froh et al. assigned 221 adolescents to either a gratitude exercise, a hassles condition, or a control condition.
"As anticipated, the gratitude exercise was associated with greater life satisfaction, suggesting that counting blessings can effectively improve well-being in adolescents."
Wood et al. conducted a study involving 389 adults, focusing on the relationship between gratitude and well-being in the context of personality styles.
"Gratitude was found to be strongly correlated with personality attributes related to well-being, suggesting that gratitude uniquely contributes to life satisfaction."
Numerous other studies have echoed these findings. For instance, among Taiwanese high school athletes, Chen and Kee found that gratitude positively predicted life satisfaction. Tseng discovered an association between gratitude and well-being among 270 Taiwanese college students. Similarly, Froh et al. examined 154 adolescents and confirmed associations between gratitude and life satisfaction.
In addition to this general connection between gratitude and well-being, researchers have explored specific facets of this relationship.
"For instance, demonstrated that higher levels of gratitude are linked to improved subjective sleep quality and duration."
In the context of cancer patients. Froh et al. observed that individuals with lower levels of positive feelings were more likely to experience gratitude in a gratitude intervention compared to those with higher levels of positive feelings. Lastly, Polak and McCullough suggested that gratitude might mitigate the negative effects of materialistic pursuits. These findings underscore the multifaceted nature of the gratitude-well-being relationship.
In conclusion, the evidence from published research in multiple population groups across age groups and locations show an overall increase in individual wellbeing from a consistent gratitude practice.
Bono G, McCullough ME. Positive Responses to Benefit and Harm: Bringing Forgiveness and Gratitude Into Cognitive Psychotherapy. J Cogn Psychother. 2006 Jun;20(2):147–58.
Wood AM, Joseph S, Lloyd J, Atkins S. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. J Psychosom Res. 2009 Jan;66(1):43–8.
Chen LH, Kee YH. Gratitude and Adolescent Athletes’ Well-Being. Soc Indic Res. 2008 Nov 15;89(2):361–73.
Wood AM, Joseph S, Maltby J. Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the five factor model. Pers Individ Dif. 2008 Jul;45(1):49–54.
Froh JJ, Sefick WJ, Emmons RA. Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. J Sch Psychol. 2008 Apr;46(2):213–33.
Emmons RA, McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Feb;84(2):377–89.
Sansone R, Sansone L. Gratitude and Well Being. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2010;7(11):18–22.
Watkins PC, Woodward K, Stone T, Kolts RL. Gratitude and Happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective wellbeing. Social Behaviour and Personality: an international journal. 2003 Jan 1;31(5):431–51.
Nelson C. Appreciating gratitude: Can gratitude be used as a psychological intervention to improve individual well-being? Counselling Psychology Review. 2009 Nov;24(3–4):38–50.
Emmons RA, Froh J, Rose R. Gratitude. In: Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (2nd ed). Washington: American Psychological Association; 2019. p. 317–32.
Wood AM, Froh JJ, Geraghty AWA. Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Nov;30(7):890–905.