Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being: Cultivating Gratitude for a Harvest of Happiness

Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being: Cultivating Gratitude for a Harvest of Happiness

Philip Charles Watkins (Eastern Washington University, USA), Trese McLaughlin (Eastern Washington University, USA) and Jhenifa P. Parker (Eastern Washington University, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3432-8.ch088

Abstract

In this chapter we review the good of gratitude and recommend various methods for cultivating this human strength. First, we show how gratitude is indeed good. We show how gratitude is important to flourishing and happiness. Gratitude is strongly correlated with various measures of well-being, and experimental studies suggest that gratitude actually causes increases in happiness. If gratitude is good, then it behooves us to investigate how the disposition of gratitude can be enhanced. We suggest that grateful responding can be enhanced by training in noticing the good in one's life, and by encouraging interpretations and appraisals that have been found to promote gratitude. We then present a discussion of unresolved issues in the science of gratitude. This is followed by a discussion of who might benefit most from gratitude. We conclude with a summary of the cultivation of gratitude. Research strongly supports the idea that the cultivation of gratitude should result in a harvest of happiness, but cultivating gratitude is not likely to be an easy process.
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Introduction

True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. – -G. K. Chesterton

The epigraph by Chesterton (1986) suggests that true happiness is not an easy pursuit. Like farming, the cultivation of happiness takes time, focus, and effort—one does not simply slide into happiness. We believe that Chesterton’s agriculture metaphor is effective for understanding the development of subjective well-being (SWB), and in this chapter we will argue that the cultivation of gratitude may be one of the most effective ways of harvesting happiness. In order to accomplish this goal, we first will establish the foundations of a science of gratitude, discussing basic definitions and means of measuring gratitude. We then turn to the focus of the chapter: the good of gratitude, explaining how gratitude is important for human flourishing. If gratitude is important to well-being, it behooves us to understand how gratitude can be cultivated, and we spend considerable space exploring this issue. We will then discuss unresolved issues in gratitude research, and conclude the chapter by showing who benefits most from gratitude interventions. Our goals for this chapter are to describe gratitude, identify needed areas of gratitude research, and show how one may use gratitude to enhance their happiness.

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