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What is Gratitude?

Adjusting our attitude

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What is Gratitude?

There is abundant research that says expressing gratitude benefits everyone, so why don't we do it more? Learn how to be more grateful and how it benefits you.

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” Television character Bart Simpson’s dinner table blessing is inappropriate, but we relate to it. Like Bart, we are often ungrateful because we feel a sense of entitlement. This Thanksgiving let’s put gratitude on the menu.

Gratitude and its cousins, appreciation and acknowledgement, are defined as positive statements or feelings to acknowledge a benefit received or anticipated.

What Good Does It Do?

There is abundant research to prove that expressing gratitude makes everyone happier: the sender, the recipient, and the people who are around them. In his recent book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), Robert A. Emmons, PhD, cites numerous studies that indicate happiness comes from gratitude.

We tend to believe that happiness comes from what happens, such as what we buy, what we achieve, and where we go on holidays. But according to Emmons, it doesn’t work that way. He says that happiness comes from being grateful.

Why Don’t We Express It More Often?

Based on the results from Emmons’ studies, he claims gratitude helps an individual create a higher income, superior work outcomes, longer marriages, more friends, stronger social supports, richer social interactions, more activities, more energy, better physical health, a stronger immune system, lower stress levels, and a longer life.

But it seems that many of us suffer from the Bart Simpson syndrome. When we feel entitled to what we receive, we are unable to be grateful. Also, expressing gratitude implies dependency and indebtedness, feelings that don’t fit well with our self-made, I-can-do-it-myself culture.


This Thanksgiving, don’t look for happiness in materialism–look for it in gratitude. Go around the dinner table and have your family and friends state a few things they are grateful for.

Five Tips for Developing Your Gratitude Muscle

  1. Practise consciously. Research has shown that marriages run smoothly when the expression of positive emotions outnumber negative emotions five to one.
  2. Learn to express gratitude by taking yourself and your opinions out of the statement. For example, say, “You are a true friend” rather than “I think you are a true friend.”
  3. Express gratitude constantly. Look around you and realize how many things, people, and situations you have to be truly grateful for.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal.
  5. Write a letter of gratitude to someone, deliver it in person, and read it aloud to them.
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