Gratitude 101: What Is It And Why Do I Need It?

Throughout the month of November, we’re going to focus on the topic of gratitude, including its personal and professional benefits. We’ll also be participating in the national #GratitudeChallenge. Join us on Twitter!

The first step to expressing gratitude is to fully understand it’s definition. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and leading expert in gratitude has a comprehensive, two-part definition:

  1. Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. By expressing gratitude, we acknowledge that there are good things in the world and that we’ve received its gifts and benefits. It’s important to note that gratitude doesn’t ignore the bad things and hassles of life, but rather encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life. (Tweet this)
  2. Gratitude involves figuring out where that goodness comes from. Expressing gratitude often reveals that many sources of goodness are outside of ourselves. (Tweet this) We can still be proud of our traits and what we accomplish, but Dr. Emmons believes that true gratitude involves “a humble dependence on others.” By this he means that we acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

“None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” — Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Benefits of Gratitude

The concept of expressing gratitude may seem like a “light and fluffy” practice, but it has been found to have significant and measurable benefits. In one study executed by Dr. Emmons, two groups of people were asked to keep a weekly journal. One group was asked to fill it with expressions of gratitude and the other was asked to write about the stressors or neutral events of their lives. The results: those who kept a gratitude journal were found to exercise more regularly, have fewer physical ailments, and feel better and more optimistic about their lives.

Additional research done on gratitude has found:

  • Daily discussions of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy and sleep duration and quality.
  • Gratitude is a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
  • People who rank higher on gratitude scales are less likely to retaliate against others and experience more sensitivity and empathy towards other people.
  • Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep.
  • Gratitude reduces social comparisons and increases self-esteem.

gratitude challenge

Are you interested in getting started in kicking-off your gratitude journey? Join us in the national gratitude challenge using the hashtag #GratitudeChallenge on Twitter. Follow us at @goWeSpire where we’ll share a different WeSpire employee’s expression of gratitude every day until Thanksgiving!