Gratitude: Definition & Benefits

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we explore the concept of gratitude. Learn about what gratitude actually is, how it exceeds similar concepts, and the benefits gratitude offers in personal perspective, society, and health.

Thank You

Thank you for clicking on this lesson and joining us to explore the meaning and benefits of gratitude. Not only do we mean this welcoming message, but it is a great example to start the learning process. Think of all the times you have shown gratitude to others, to a higher power if that is your faith, or even to an inanimate object that is finally cooperating with you. Didn't you feel good expressing your thanks, not just feeling happy for what you received? Well, there are a lot of benefits related to gratitude and include the way it affects our perspectives on the world, our social relationships, and even our physical and neurological health. To make sure our foundation of understanding is strong, let's start by explaining gratitude to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

How many ways can you say thank you?

What is Gratitude

Various definitions of the gratitude describe it as being thankful, giving thanks, the emotional state of thankfulness, and having or showing appreciation for the kindness received from others. In this way, it is simultaneously a state of being, an act of doing, and an emotional gift granted to another. It goes beyond reciprocity, the exchange of objects or favors between people over a period of time. It also goes beyond indebtedness, the feeling of owing someone else because of what they've given or done for you - a feeling that causes one to engage in reciprocity to balance the debt. Gratitude produces benefits that neither of these similar states or acts can create, influencing a person's whole perspective, forming strong social bonds, and fostering mental and physical health.

Gratitude is a state of being, an act of doing, and an emotional gift.

Benefits of Gratitude: Perspective

Feeling and showing gratitude influence a person's perspective on their world around them.

First, the person expressing gratitude is acknowledging that something good has happened and that there is goodness in the world. They acknowledge they are the beneficiary of this goodness, an acknowledgment that strongly opposes any tendency to be bitter or spiteful about the world.

Second, by seeing the source of that good coming from something external to their own self, the person expressing gratitude is focusing outward, rather than inward. It also causes people to reflect on the positive aspects of their interpersonal relationships, realizing that they are part of a network of people supporting and encouraging one another. These realizations and perspectives, taken individually or together as a whole, focus a person on the goodness and love around them.

Gratitude changes your entire perspective.
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Benefits of Gratitude: Social

This brings us to the second sphere of benefits relating to gratitude. The perspective shift to focusing on networks of support and goodness help form stronger social bonds as well as benefit society as a whole. Even when a grateful person cannot give their gratitude as a gift to the original giver, such as when the gift is an anonymous donation or a good deed in passing, grateful people express their gratitude through altruistic acts toward others. Altruism is roughly defined as selfless giving or concern for others and their well-being. In more familiar terms, gratitude can lead to altruism or ''paying it forward.''

The stronger relationships and mutual support caused through gratitude-infused interactions can lead to repeated behaviors of mutual assistance. Basically, people continue to help one another in an ongoing, voluntary cycle that benefits everyone involved. It's no stretch of the imagination to see that we, as people, succeed together and achieve more with help from one another than we could on our own.

Gratitude strengthens relationships.

Research studies have illuminated the following ways gratitude impacts interpersonal and societal relationships.

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