My latest obsession has been on gratitude, thanks to some of my contemporaries who have piqued my interest on the matter. To be honest, I spent this last week reading up on so much of it, there was no way I couldn't write about it. Gratitude, according to researchers, has been called an “empathic emotion” (Lazarus & Lazarus, 1994) because it is predicated on the capacity for recognizing the beneficial actions of other people in one’s life. This is also known as Dispositional Gratitude - the ability or life orientation to notice and appreciate what is positive in the world around them. Research shows that people who possess dispositional gratitude tend to engage themselves more in healthy activities for the reasons below:
1. They see everything as a gift. According to Emmons and McCullough (2003), people who see everything in life as a gift and who count their blessings are more likely to have better vitality and agility. They worry less, so their zest for life is always on point and they natural reaction is to keep up the positive energy by keeping active because they see value in their lives. Gratitude, as I understand it from the research, gives someone reason and purpose for living.
2. They possess positive affect traits. What this simply means is they are able to laugh and laugh a lot. They are able to find humor in life and be cheerful. And because they naturally possess these traits that help them seek other fun people, they are prone to positive emotions and subjective well-being.
3. They have high levels of extraversion and low levels of neuroticism. Other research show that people with high levels of extraversion and low levels of neuroticism (anxiety, depressive affect), engage more in physical activity. I would liken this to Fredrickson's Broaden and Build Theory, that talks about how when we feel good we just want to share it with so many other people. Naturally, having positive affect traits will make you want to go out and be around other people - willing to do fun activities together.
Emmons R.A., McCullough M.E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol, 84(2), 377-89.
Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013) Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 92-96. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011
Lazarus, R. S., & Lazarus, B. N. (1994). Passion and reason: Making sense of our emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.
McCollough M.E., Emmons, R.A., & Tsang, J. (2002) The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82 (1), 112-127.