Gratitude In Relationship To Happiness
Expressing gratitude on an everyday basis positively impacts an individual’s well-being immensely. The act of being thankful can decrease one’s tendencies to feel or exhibit entitlement, excessive amounts of guilt, and narcissism. Despite the negative characteristics that all humans have that prevent a state of gratitude, there are also many methods that provide a solution to these complications. Some of these solutions include the following: recording one’s appreciation in journals, saying thank you every day, counting blessings through prayer, and many more (Seidman). Many studies have shown gratitude can link to the improvement of three areas: a person’s psychological health, any mental illnesses one may obtain, and a person’s relationship with others, such as family or friends. These three have positive impacts on a person’s well-being essentially all leading back to the enhancement of one’s happiness.
Therefore, to achieve satisfaction, gratitude is an essential component.To begin, one of the primary emotions that avert contentment is an entitlement. Society today is obsessed with the accumulation of “things.” Materialism has become a considerable factor swaying individuals on the path of ingratitude. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, and he claims that “A society that feels entitled to what it receives does not adequately express gratitude” (Emmons). Thus, reinstating how if one feels they deserve privileges or special treatment rather than expressing gratefulness for what they already have, they will never be fully satisfied with their life. Furthermore, there is the massive impediment to gratitude known as narcissism, which goes hand in hand with entitlement. Narcissists feel no empathy, as their attitude toward life is very self-centered.
An individual that exhibits narcissistic values feels that the grievances of life will always exceed the gifts others have to offer. Emmons feels narcissism is “spiritual blindness” by stating: “… [narcissism] is [the] refusal to acknowledge that one has been the recipient of benefits freely bestowed by others. A preoccupation with the self can cause us to forget our benefits and our benefactors, or to feel that we are owed things from others and therefore have no reason to feel thankful” (Emmons). What Professor Emmons is clarifying within this statement is that egocentrism blinds one from feeling content and grateful when one receives a gift. In all its manifestations, narcissism is a prime factor causing the decline in thankfulness and contentment across the country.
Further, feeling guilt hinders gratitude for a variety of reasons. The fundamental cause that prevents thankfulness is when an individual feels shame knowing they cannot repay the person that has given them so much to that same extent. The result can cause resentment in relationship to the embarrassment one feels knowing they are unequal in charitableness to the other who has given so much. Gratitude researcher Phil Watkins explains that it is obvious people “feel indebted and grateful at the same time”; however, when a person feels greatly in debt involving generosity with another “it is hard to feel grateful” (Kennelly).
Therefore, these negative characteristics (e.g., entitlement, narcissism, and guilt) impact gratitude, which in turn negatively impacts an individual’s level of happiness. Although there are many conflicting emotions that impede an individual’s capability to be grateful, there are many methods to develop and improve gratitude as well. Firstly, thankfulness makes your psychological state healthier. A study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough, Professor at the University of Miami, have contributed substantial amounts of information on gratitude and its links to improving people’s well-being. One of their studies asked for participants to write a sentence each week on their given topic. Group one was asked to describe the things they were grateful for weekly. Group 2 was asked to explain the negative aspects that occurred throughout the week. Group 3 wrote about whatever was significant during the week, either negative or positive. Doctor of Medicine at Harvard University, Harvey B. Simon, says that Emmons and McCullough concluded after ten weeks that those who wrote about more positive occurrences “felt better about their lives” (Simon). They also began to exercise more and have “fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation” stated Simon (Simon).
Thus, further showing how gratitude contributes to a happier and more balanced life. As well, an improvement on any mental illnesses one may have is a huge benefactor of the usage of gratefulness. Through the studies of the cognitive scientist, Susan Peirce Thompson, it was discovered that individuals who participate in the “three good things” exercise — which is an activity that requires people to say out loud three things they are grateful for, and why, each day — has improved depression and made them become happier with their lives. Thompson further states that “if there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich” (Ducharme). This statement proves that self-contentment is indeed the key to happiness. Therefore, once again validating the importance of gratitude with heightening one’s happiness.
Lastly, gratitude can be linked as the most significant attribute to happiness by the various scientific studies directed by the psychologist, Sara Algoe. Algoe conducted a study involving how relationships improved by utilizing the tool of thankfulness. This experiment consisted of older, more experienced sorority girls in giving the new sorority girls presents and frequent compliments or kind gestures. After a certain period, the new sorority girls developed a strong relationship with the eldest girls in the group, as proved by Sara Algoe and her other social psychology peers, Jonathan Haidt and Shelly Gable. The psychologists proved their study was accurate by stating: “Perceptions of benefactor responsiveness predicted gratitude for benefits, and gratitude during the week predicted future relationship outcomes” (Algoe). Meaning that when an individual expresses gratitude to another, it will promote a stronger bond.
Developing relationships bring meaning and contentment into an individuals life. Thus, exhibiting how thankfulness enhances one’s well-being and overall satisfaction.Ultimately, the essential attribute to happiness an individual needs to obtain is gratitude. Through negative characteristics such as entitlement, guilt, and narcissism, thankfulness within people is hindered. In turn, the promotion of gratitude results in a healthier mind, a decrement in mental illnesses, and bettered relationships with others. To summarize, society would be a happier place to live in if more people choose to invest the little time it takes to provide the world with simple daily acts of gratitude.
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