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Psychology of gratitude: benefits of being grateful

Psychology of gratitude: benefits of being grateful

October 5, 2022

Gratitude has more impact on our lives than we think. In this article we will see what positive psychology tells us about the habit of being grateful .

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Psychology of gratitude: Thanksgiving

Each year, on different dates, the United States and Canada celebrate Thanksgiving, originally known as Thanksgiving. The Americans celebrate it on the last Thursday of November, while on Canadian soil, the second Monday in October.

Its origin takes place in Plymouth, in the year of 1621, when a group of pilgrims shared their autumn harvest with the Wampanoag Indians, as thanks for having taught them cultivation and hunting techniques . That celebration of harmony and gratitude among pilgrims and Native Americans lasted three days.


Several years later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that distant event as a national holiday in 1863, to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. However, it was not until 1941 that the Congress of the North American country established it officially, under the command of President Franklin Roosevelt.

To the present day, this tradition consists of meeting as a family at the table and having a turkey dinner roasted or baked, which is the main course; In addition, salads, bread and cakes serve as accompaniment. That night, homes enjoy a special moment in which each member shares their blessings and gives thanks for that.

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A new meaning for being grateful

According to the ethical and philosophical vision, gratitude is defined as a moral virtue that denotes good behavior (McCullogh, Kilpatrick, Emmons and Larson, 2001); since it is a sensation of esteem that takes us to correspond the benefit that has been done to us or has been wished to us, according to the Royal Spanish Academy. However, gratitude produces in us something more than just wanting to correspond to a good action.


Positive psychology, which scientifically studies everything that provides psychological well-being, initiated an investigation into the effects of gratitude in the late 1990s , through Robert Emmons of the University of California and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami.

This study consisted of forming three groups of people, assigned at random, with the indication of keeping a weekly newspaper. The first group would have to write in their diary the things for which he was grateful; the second, he would write everything that angered them; while the third group would focus on neutral events. After ten weeks, the results revealed that the people who wrote only acknowledgments presented better health than the rest of the participants.

Northrup (2012), says that when we find something to be grateful for, however small, and we maintain that feeling of gratitude for 15 to 20 seconds, our body experiences several subtle and beneficial physiological changes , for example: the reduction of stress levels and the strengthening of the immune system; better blood flow; the heart rate is harmonized and the breathing becomes deeper, so the amount of oxygen in the tissues increases.


Developing gratitude requires will and discipline, just like any other activity, so continuous practice produces physical and emotional benefits. In this way, grateful people could see the positive even in moments of suffering, valuing these elements to integrate them into their existence.

So, gratitude implies a balanced view of the positive and negative aspects of the experience (Moyano, 2011). In the face of circumstances in life, an answer of gratitude can be an adaptive psychological strategy, that is, an ability to adapt to such circumstances, and it can also be an important development for the person to interpret their daily experiences positively (McCullough and Emmons, 2003 ).

How to cultivate gratitude

You can start by dedicating a few minutes before going to sleep , to think about everything that happened to you during the day so you can thank, perhaps for that meeting with your friends, for having that coat that protects you from the cold when leaving home, for the message that put you in a good mood, for the family, for having yourself that you are alive and healthy.

For all those experiences and decisions that led you to this moment; because even bad experiences are learned, you acquire maturity, strengthen your character and prepare you to make better decisions tomorrow.You can perform this practice as often as you wish, until it is part of you to identify the blessings that surround you.

To thank in an authentic and sincere way opens the doors to a better health, besides promoting the good relationship with yourself and with others. So, beyond the second Monday of October or the last Thursday of November, make each day a thanksgiving.

Bibliographic references:

  • McCullough, M. and Emmons, R. (2003). Grateful moods to individual's differences and daily emotional experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 377-389.
  • McCullough, M .; Kilpatrick, S .; Emmons, R. & Larson, D. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.
  • Moyano N. (2011). Gratitude in positive psychology. Psychodebate, 10, 103-117.
  • Northrup C. (2012). Woman's body, woman's wisdom (personal growth). Retrieved on November 15, 2018 from: //offermaxs.com/download/e/ libro.php? Asin = 8479537485
  • Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (2017). Dictionary of Spanish Language. Madrid: RAE.
  • Valencia, J. (2016). Origins of positive psychology and the scientific study of gratitude. Rev. Psicol., 101-117.

The Gratitude Experiment (October 2022).


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