The Connection of Gratitude and Happiness

This has been a weird year. So it is no surprise that it is a weird Thanksgiving today. Today we would normally would be gathering with our friends and family. But this year, some of us may be holding back from visiting the ones we cherish for various reasons. Or maybe some of us is gathering in small groups or outside. Either way you are celebrating Thanksgiving this year, it is completely understandable the feeling of heaviness. You may have that time honored tradition with your Thanksgiving crew, of going around the table stating what you are thankful for this year. However, this year may prove to be particularly difficult to finding reasons to be thankful. In this holiday special post, we will briefly discuss topics from Positive Psychology in regards to the connection of gratitude and happiness.

What the research says

Research has found that happiness can be derived in many ways, one being gratitude. In an experiment conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough, subjects were asked to jot down a few sentences on topics spanning across the spectrum of gratefulness and irritability over the span of ten weeks. Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough found that those who focused more on topics of gratitude tend to be happier and even engaged in more healthy behaviors.

Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff found that a daily “Savory walks” led to increased happiness. Where Savory is defined as focusing on, appreciating, and increasing positive experiences. In their book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, they discuss four types of savoring:

  1. Marveling, regulation of awe. For example marveling at the beauty of the Chicago skyline reflecting on Lake Michigan, and marveling at the vastness and calmness of Lake Michigan.
  2. Thanksgiving, regulation of gratitude. For example, yesterday I went to a local market to support local businesses, and the gentleman at the front gave me a pound of breakfast sausage to thank me for supporting their business, and I in turn, felt a sense of gratitude, thanking him profusely! (We just kept on thanking each other back and forth, despite not being able to see each others’ smiles under our masks!)
  3. Basking, regulation of pride. For example, when a first generation college graduate recalls their accomplishment while looking at their hard-earned diploma, and feeling a sense of pride, they are basking in their accomplishment.
  4. Luxuriating, regulation of physical pleasure. For example, feeling the warmth, and hearing the crackling of the fire in the fireplace has you sip a delicious autumnal beverage under a cozy, fuzzy blanket. In engaging all of these senses, you are luxuriating.

Express gratitude -> Increase Happiness

In her book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life you Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky, discusses eight ways to increase your gratitude. Her digest version can be found here, where she not only states eight ways to increase your gratitude, but also how it does. As stated on, some ways people express gratitude is remember the past fondly, being present and experience the joy that is right now, and be hopeful for what is to come in the future

So today, when it may not seem like it there’s much to be thankful for, perhaps taking a Savory Walk, or take note of the gratitude that may have occurred in the past, present, or the hopes for the future.

Some great resources to check out to help you experience gratitude

Positive Psychology Research on Gratitude

Positive Psychology books on Gratitude

Eight Ways Gratitude Boosts Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Podcasts by Dr. Laurie Santos, Yale professor of the famous course, “The Science of Well-Being”

Harvard Article on Gratitude

Resources for Positive Psychology

We want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope you are staying safe.

It certainly can be difficult to manage emotions and thoughts by yourself, if you need assistance from professionals, please feel free to contact us here.

This article was written by Aarti S. Felder, MA, LCPC, to learn more about her you can find her bio here.

Leave a Reply