The Scientific Benefits of Cultivating and Expressing Gratitude

Science shows gratitude can help optimize performance across the many domains of Total Force Fitness. The infographic below shows some of the researched benefits of gratitude on your military wellness, resilience, mental health, and performance optimization. To learn more about how you can cultivate gratitude, check out HPRC’s Gratitude Calendar and our article on the benefits of counting your blessings.

See caption for alt text

Published on: July 8, 2021

The Scientific Benefits of Cultivating and Expressing Gratitude.

Research shows cultivating gratitude can help you and others be happier, experience greater life satisfaction, have less symptoms of depression and anxiety, have more energy, engage in healthier activities, sleep longer, and wake up refreshed. In addition, it can help you be more resilient, grow from trauma, protect against burnout, have stronger relationships, feel more loved, supported, committed, satisfied, and valued. Cultivating gratitude also can help you and others boost motivation and performance, work harder, feel more fulfilled, identify and solve problems, build character, be more likely to offer help, and be more trusting and trustworthy.


CHAMP wants to know:

Did this information help change your opinion or perspective?

References

Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455–469. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00439.x

Algoe, S. B., Fredrickson, B. L., & Gable, S. L. (2013). The social functions of the emotion of gratitude via expression. Emotion, 13(4), 605–609. doi:10.1037/a0032701

Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It's the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(2), 217–233. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01273.x

Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The ‘other-praising’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(2), 105–127. doi:10.1080/17439760802650519

Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8(3), 425–429. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.8.3.425

Algoe, S. B., Kurtz, L. E., & Hilaire, N. M. (2016). Putting the “you” in “thank you”: Examining other-praising behavior as the active relational ingredient in expressed gratitude. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(7), 658–666. doi:10.1177/1948550616651681

Algoe, S. B., & Stanton, A. L. (2012). Gratitude when it is needed most: Social functions of gratitude in women with metastatic breast cancer. Emotion, 12(1), 163–168. doi:10.1037/a0024024

Algoe, S. B., & Way, B. M. (2014). Evidence for a role of the oxytocin system, indexed by genetic variation in CD38, in the social bonding effects of expressed gratitude. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(12), 1855–1861. doi:10.1093/scan/nst182

Algoe, S. B., & Zhaoyang, R. (2015). Positive psychology in context: Effects of expressing gratitude in ongoing relationships depend on perceptions of enactor responsiveness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(4), 399–415. doi:10.1080/17439760.2015.1117131

Allen, S. (2018, May 2018). The science of gratitude.   Retrieved June 30, 2021 from https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Gratitude-FINAL.pdf

Amaro, L. M. (2016). Dyadic effects of gratitude on burden, conflict, and contribution in the family caregiver and sibling relationship. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 45(1), 61–78. doi:10.1080/00909882.2016.1248464

Armenta, C. N., Fritz, M. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). Functions of positive emotions: Gratitude as a motivator of self-improvement and positive change. Emotion Review, 9(3), 183–190. doi:10.1177/1754073916669596

Bartlett, M. Y., Condon, P., Cruz, J., Baumann, J., & Desteno, D. (2012). Gratitude: Prompting behaviours that build relationships. Cognition & Emotion, 26(1), 2–13. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.561297

Barton, A. W., Futris, T. G., & Nielsen, R. B. (2015). Linking financial distress to marital quality: The intermediary roles of demand/withdraw and spousal gratitude expressions. Personal Relationships, 22(3), 536–549. doi:10.1111/pere.12094

Chan, D. W. (2010). Gratitude, gratitude intervention and subjective well‐being among Chinese school teachers in Hong Kong. Educational Psychology, 30(2), 139–153. doi:10.1080/01443410903493934

Chan, D. W. (2011). Burnout and life satisfaction: Does gratitude intervention make a difference among Chinese school teachers in Hong Kong? Educational Psychology, 31(7), 809–823. doi:10.1080/01443410.2011.608525

Chang, Y.-P., Li, T.-S., Teng, H. Y., Berki, A., & Chen, L. H. (2012). Living with gratitude: Spouse’s gratitude on one’s depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1431–1442. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9389-4

Chen, L. H., & Chang, Y.-P. (2014). Cross-lagged associations between gratitude and adolescent athlete burnout. Current Psychology, 33(4), 460–478. doi:10.1007/s12144-014-9223-8

Chen, L. H., & Kee, Y. H. (2008). Gratitude and adolescent athletes’ well-being. Social Indicators Research, 89(2), 361–373. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9237-4

Cheng, S.-T., Tsui, P. K., & Lam, J. H. M. (2015). Improving mental health in health care practitioners: Randomized controlled trial of a gratitude intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 177–186. doi:10.1037/a0037895

Dunn, J. R., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2005). Feeling and believing: The influence of emotion on trust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(5), 736–748. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.736

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Ford, M. T., Wang, Y., Jin, J., & Eisenberger, R. (2018). Chronic and episodic anger and gratitude toward the organization: Relationships with organizational and supervisor supportiveness and extrarole behavior. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(2), 175–187. doi:10.1037/ocp0000075

Geraghty, A. W. A., Wood, A. M., & Hyland, M. E. (2010). Dissociating the facets of hope: Agency and pathways predict dropout from unguided self-help therapy in opposite directions. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(1), 155–158. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2009.12.003

Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2012). To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(2), 257–274. doi:10.1037/a0028723

Grant, A. M., & Gino, F. (2010). A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(6), 946–955. doi:10.1037/a0017935

Grant, A. M., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). I won’t let you down… or will I? Core self-evaluations, other-orientation, anticipated guilt and gratitude, and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 108–121. doi:10.1037/a0017974

Hill, P. L., & Allemand, M. (2011). Gratitude, forgivingness, and well-being in adulthood: Tests of moderation and incremental prediction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 397–407. doi:10.1080/17439760.2011.602099

Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(1), 92–96. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011

Jackowska, M., Brown, J., Ronaldson, A., & Steptoe, A. (2016). The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(10), 2207–2217. doi:10.1177/1359105315572455

Kaczmarek, L. D., Goodman, F. R., Drążkowski, D., Kashdan, T. B., Połatyńska, K., & Komorek, J. (2014). Instructional support decreases desirability and initiation of a gratitude intervention. Personality and Individual Differences, 64, 89–93. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.02.022

Kaczmarek, L. D., Kashdan, T. B., Drążkowski, D., Bujacz, A., & Goodman, F. R. (2014). Why do greater curiosity and fewer depressive symptoms predict gratitude intervention use? Utility beliefs, social norm, and self-control beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 66, 165–170. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.03.032

Kaczmarek, L. D., Kashdan, T. B., Drążkowski, D., Enko, J., Kosakowski, M., Szäefer, A., & Bujacz, A. (2015). Why do people prefer gratitude journaling over gratitude letters? The influence of individual differences in motivation and personality on web-based interventions. Personality and Individual Differences, 75, 1–6. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.004

Kaczmarek, L. D., Kashdan, T. B., Kleiman, E. M., Baczkowski, B., Enko, J., Siebers, A., . . . Baran, B. (2013). Who self-initiates gratitude interventions in daily life? An examination of intentions, curiosity, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(7), 805–810. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.06.013

Kaplan, S., Bradley-Geist, J. C., Ahmad, A., Anderson, A., Hargrove, A. K., & Lindsey, A. (2013). A test of two positive psychology interventions to increase employee well-being. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(3), 367–380. doi:10.1007/s10869-013-9319-4

Karns, C. M., Moore, W. E., & Mayr, U. (2017). The cultivation of pure altruism via gratitude: A functional MRI study of change with gratitude practice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00599

Kashdan, T. B., Uswatte, G., & Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(2), 177–199. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2005.01.005

Kong, F., Ding, K., & Zhao, J. (2014). The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction among undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(2), 477–489. doi:10.1007/s10902-014-9519-2

Konig, S., & Gluck, J. (2013). "Gratitude is with me all the time": How gratitude relates to wisdom. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69(5), 655–666. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbt123

Kubacka, K. E., Finkenauer, C., Rusbult, C. E., & Keijsers, L. (2011). Maintaining close relationships: Gratitude as a motivator and a detector of maintenance behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1362–1375. doi:10.1177/0146167211412196

Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude: Expressing gratitude to a partner changes one’s view of the relationship. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574–580. doi:10.1177/0956797610364003

Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 11(1), 52–60. doi:10.1037/a0021557

Lambert, N. M., Fincham, F. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2012). Gratitude and depressive symptoms: The role of positive reframing and positive emotion. Cognition & Emotion, 26(4), 615–633. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.595393

Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Kurtz, J. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). What triggers prosocial effort? A positive feedback loop between positive activities, kindness, and well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(4), 385–398. doi:10.1080/17439760.2016.1198924

Lies, J., Mellor, D., & Hong, R. Y. (2014). Gratitude and personal functioning among earthquake survivors in Indonesia. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(4), 295–305. doi:10.1080/17439760.2014.902492

Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. (2017). Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 143(6), 601–635. doi:10.1037/bul0000103

McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J.-A. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112–127. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.112

Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., . . . Chopra, D. (2015). The role of gratitude in spiritual well-being in asymptomatic heart failure patients. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2(1), 5–17. doi:10.1037/scp0000050

Ng, M.-Y., & Wong, W.-S. (2012). The differential effects of gratitude and sleep on psychological distress in patients with chronic pain. Journal of Health Psychology, 18(2), 263–271. doi:10.1177/1359105312439733

Nowak, M. A., & Roch, S. (2006). Upstream reciprocity and the evolution of gratitude. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1610), 605–610. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0125

O’Connell, B. H., O’Shea, D., & Gallagher, S. (2015). Enhancing social relationships through positive psychology activities: A randomised controlled trial. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(2), 149–162. doi:10.1080/17439760.2015.1037860

Panagopoulos, C. (2011). Thank you for voting: Gratitude expression and voter mobilization. The Journal of Politics, 73(3), 707–717. doi:10.1017/s0022381611000405

Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beermann, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(3), 149–156. doi:10.1080/17439760701228938

Ruini, C., & Vescovelli, F. (2012). The role of gratitude in breast cancer: Its relationships with post-traumatic growth, psychological well-being and distress. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(1), 263–274. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9330-x

Rye, M. S., Fleri, A. M., Moore, C. D., Worthington, E. L., Wade, N. G., Sandage, S. J., & Cook, K. M. (2012). Evaluation of an intervention designed to help divorced parents forgive their ex-spouse. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 53(3), 231–245. doi:10.1080/10502556.2012.663275

Spence, J. R., Brown, D. J., Keeping, L. M., & Lian, H. (2013). Helpful today, but not tomorrow? Feeling grateful as a predictor of daily organizational citizenship behaviors. Personnel Psychology, 705–738. doi:10.1111/peps.12051

Subandi, M. A., Achmad, T., Kurniati, H., & Febri, R. (2014). Spirituality, gratitude, hope and post-traumatic growth among the survivors of the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi in Java, Indonesia. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 18(1), 19–26.

Sun, P., & Kong, F. (2013). Affective mediators of the influence of gratitude on life satisfaction in late adolescence. Social Indicators Research, 114(3), 1361–1369. doi:10.1007/s11205-013-0333-8

Van Dusen, J. P., Tiamiyu, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Elhai, J. D. (2015). Gratitude, depression and PTSD: Assessment of structural relationships. Psychiatry Research, 230(3), 867–870. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.11.036

Vernon, L. L., Dillon, J. M., & Steiner, A. R. W. (2009). Proactive coping, gratitude, and posttraumatic stress disorder in college women. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 22(1), 117–127. doi:10.1080/10615800802203751

Vieselmeyer, J., Holguin, J., & Mezulis, A. (2017). The role of resilience and gratitude in posttraumatic stress and growth following a campus shooting. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9(1), 62–69. doi:10.1037/tra0000149

Waters, L. (2012). Predicting job satisfaction: Contributions of individual gratitude and institutionalized gratitude. Psychology, 03(12), 1174–1176. doi:10.4236/psych.2012.312A173

Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 31(5), 431–451. doi:10.2224/sbp.2003.31.5.431

Weill, S., Rimsky, L., Rye, M., & Lanham, M. (2012). How gratitude relates to burnout and job satisfaction in mental health professionals. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(4), 341–354. doi:10.17744/mehc.34.4.w35q80w11kgpqn26

Williams, L. A., & Bartlett, M. Y. (2015). Warm thanks: Gratitude expression facilitates social affiliation in new relationships via perceived warmth. Emotion, 15(1), 1–5. doi:10.1037/emo0000017

Wood, A. M., Brown, G. D. A., & Maltby, J. (2011). Thanks, but I'm used to better: A relative rank model of gratitude. Emotion, 11(1), 175–180. doi:10.1037/a0021553

Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(9), 1076–1093. doi:10.1521/jscp.2007.26.9.1076

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.002

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the five factor model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(1), 49–54. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.02.019

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the big five facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(4), 443–447. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.11.012

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 854–871. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2007.11.003

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., & Joseph, S. (2008). Conceptualizing gratitude and appreciation as a unitary personality trait. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(3), 621–632. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.09.028

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). A social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude. Emotion, 8(2), 281–290. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.8.2.281

Yost-Dubrow, R., & Dunham, Y. (2017). Evidence for a relationship between trait gratitude and prosocial behaviour. Cognition and Emotion, 32(2), 397–403. doi:10.1080/02699931.2017.1289153

Zhou, X., & Wu, X. (2016). Understanding the roles of gratitude and social support in posttraumatic growth among adolescents after Ya'an earthquake: A longitudinal study. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 4–8. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.05.033