Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra
Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Gratitude provides us with a more intimate connection to ourselves and the world around us. In the feeling of gratitude, the spiritual is experienced.
For those who are ill, feelings of gratitude and awe may facilitate perceptions and cognitions that go beyond the focus of their illness, and include positive aspects of one’s personal and interpersonal reality in the face of disease. Such beneficial associations with gratitude have accelerated scientific interest in and research on gratitude and wellbeing. The number of publications on gratitude appearing in the biomedical literature in 5-year increments since 1960-1965 shows almost no publications until 1996-2000 with about 20 studies. That number doubled from 2001-2005. From 2006-2010 publications jumped to 150, and from 2011 to the present over 275 studies on gratitude have been published.
Much of this growth of scientific interest in gratitude can be traced to the early pioneering gratitude research of psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. In general, studies find that the frequency with which one experiences the feeling of gratitude, as well as the depth of emotion when experiencing it, are linked to improvements in perceived social support as well as reduced stress and depression. Among groups seeking to support this work, the Greater Good Science Center (Berkeley, CA), in collaboration with the Templeton Foundation (West Conshohocken, PA), has been a strong advocate of advancing the science of gratitude and expanding that science into diverse areas of human health and wellbeing. Continue reading