Understanding gratitude (DW#616)

Today inshallah we start a series on the emotion and practice of gratitude: what it is, why it matters and how we can cultivate it.

Before we go any further, let us explore what we mean by gratitude. Here are some ways that psychologists and social scientists define gratitude:

"[Gratitude] has been conceptualized as an emotion, a virtue, a moral sentiment, a motive, a coping response, a skill, and an attitude. It is all of these and more. Minimally, gratitude is an emotional response to a gift. It is the appreciation felt after one has been the beneficiary of an altruistic act" (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000).

"[Gratitude is] a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power" [Harvard Medical School ]

Robert Emmons, is perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He argues that gratitude has several key components:

"First," he writes, "it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received."

In the second part of gratitude, he explains, "we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives."

In another place, he explains that the social dimension is especially important to gratitude. "I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion," he writes, "because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people."

Because gratitude encourages us not only to notice and appreciate gifts but also to repay them (or to pay them forward), the sociologist Georg Simmel calls it "the moral memory of mankind." In other words, when you notice and acknowledge goodness in your life and acknowledge that the source of such goodness is outside of yourself, you are more likely to pass on goodness to others. Simmel explains that because of this, gratitude has helped the human species survive by strengthening bonds between groups of people who mutually helped each other out.

So as we will see in this series, gratitude is so much more than simply saying thank you. If there was a single practice, a "magic pill" to improve mental and emotional wellbeing, it would be the practice of gratitude.

So excited to share this content with you!

Join our blog!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.