Why Showing Gratitude Is Good for You and Those Around You

People underestimate the positive effect of showing gratitude, which keeps many of us from engaging in behavior that would maximize our own—and others’—well-being


Two friends meeting in the street of the city and hugging

(Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock.com)

Looking for a way to make yourself and those around you feel better? Well, a recent study reveals that just showing a bit of gratitude can do just that.

Researchers Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley decided to study the benefits of gratitude on personal well-being. To test their theory, they conducted a series of three experiments with hundreds of participants. Each person wrote an email to someone in their lives expressing gratitude. Afterward, they asked the participants to predict how the recipients would react to their letters in terms of how surprised, happy, and awkward they would feel.

As it turns out, all participants, no matter their race, age, or gender, consistently underestimated the positive impact the letters would have on the people reading them. Contrary to their predictions, the letters had overwhelmingly positive responses. In fact, the recipients described feeling very touched, surprised, and happy about receiving the letters.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychological Science, reveals a very interesting aspect of human behavior. People tend to undervalue the huge positive impact that gratitude has on themselves and others. Because they’re afraid they might make the other person uncomfortable, most people are reluctant to express their gratitude.

It seems we’ve got it all wrong! Showing appreciation to others actually does just the opposite. Letting people know that we appreciate them and their actions have lots of benefits. Not just for the person giving thanks, but also for the recipient. Just think back to a moment when someone showed you a random act of kindness and how good that made you feel.

According to the research, “underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.”

So what does this tell us about our lives? Toss your fears of telling others how much you appreciate them. You can even make it a daily exercise to cultivate gratitude. Spend around 15 minutes before bed and write down your positive emotions in a gratitude journal. Count your blessings and be sure to share your feeling of gratitude with someone else.

In the end, we can all benefit more from showing other we’re feeling grateful more often. Letting people know you’re grateful for their part in your life every day will not only maximize your own well-being but also allow those around you to feel good.

Now that’s what we’d call a win-win situation!

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