PSY353e: Positive Psychology Report, SUSS, Singapore According to Russell and Fosha (2008), all forms of gratitude have a healing effect on us and can enlighten the mind
According to Russell and Fosha (2008), all forms of gratitude have a healing effect on us and can enlighten the mind and increase happiness. There is an obvious multi-dimensional connection between gratitude and happiness. The expression of gratitude to others and to ourselves as well induces positive emotions that increase feelings of contentment and pleasure which impact our physical and psychological well-being.
Gordon et al. (2012) indicated that many studies have shown that gratitude improves interpersonal relationships at home and at work. Simple acts such as keeping a gratitude journal cause less stress, improve the quality of sleep and build emotional awareness.
On the work front, research has shown that employees who exercise gratitude are more efficient, productive, and responsible. Expressing gratitude in the workplace is a proactive action toward building interpersonal bonds. This will then trigger feelings of closeness and bonding.
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The reason for this is that workers who express gratitude are more likely to do better work, volunteer for more assignments, be willing to go that extra mile to complete their tasks and connect better when working in a team. This is also true for employers who express gratitude to their employees, which improves group cohesiveness and in turn increases productivity.
As a life orientation, gratitude represents satisfaction in many aspects of life such as family, social support, and work (Wood et al., 2008). When life satisfaction increases, there appears to be a causal effect leading people’s gratitude to increase accordingly. According to the research findings of Woods et al. (2008), gratitude appears to directly foster social support and to protect people from stress and depression.
This suggests that people tend to feel a strong sense of gratitude when experiencing high levels of life satisfaction. Research also suggests that people who are satisfied with their lives tend to develop three types of perception that increase gratitude. Firstly, people who are satisfied with their lives are more likely to experience gratitude.
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Secondly, the receiver of gratitude appreciates the goodness of the giver which in turns increase feelings of gratefulness. Subsequently and thirdly, the receiver is likely to feel grateful if they perceive their giver as having gone beyond the receiver’s social expectations (Watkins, 2004). This shows that people who experience greater life satisfaction were likely to evaluate their surroundings more positively which increases the probability of a grateful response.
Gratitude has also been studied in neuroscience where specific regions of the brain have been identified as likely being involved in the experience and expression of gratitude. Apparently, individuals who express gratitude and feel grateful have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (Zahn et al., 2014).
Another study by Fox et al. (2015) on neural correlates of gratitude revealed that ratings of gratitude correlated with brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex. The results identified gratitude as a complex social emotion and provided a window into the brain circuitry for moral cognition and positive emotion that accompanies the experience of benefitting from the goodwill of others. These studies provide further evidence that gratitude is an intrinsic component of the human experience. Additionally, a few other studies have identified specific genes that may underlie our ability to experience gratitude.
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