Above: A student thanks her teacher on Stepping Up Day.

At Seven Arrows, Gratitude is one of our Seven Core Values – “We believe in actively practicing appreciation and thankfulness for all the good in our lives and in the world. We believe in being generous with our thanks and with our hearts.”

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has been studying the effects of gratitude on physical health, on psychological well-being, and on our relationships with others for over 15 years. He is considered the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. Emmons defines gratitude as having two components.

“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life. The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride.”

Emmon acknowledges that the benefits of gratitude are many, but identifies four that are particularly important.

  1. GRATITUDE ALLOWS US TO BE PRESENT. Research shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. The human brain likes novelty and newness. By continually focusing on gratitude, we don’t take positive life circumstances for granted. This allows us to stay in the present and be more engaged in our lives.
  2. GRATITUDE BLOCKS TOXIC, NEGATIVE EMOTIONS. Research shows that envy, resentment, and regret are incompatible with gratitude. If you are grateful for what you have, you cannot be resentful of those who have what you don’t. Research has also shown that practicing gratitude can lower the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
  3. GRATEFUL PEOPLE ARE MORE STRESS RESISTANT. Studies have shown that individuals facing great trauma, suffering, or adversity will recover more quickly if they embrace a grateful disposition. Gratitude gives us a lens through which to interpret negative life events and help shield us from anxiety and other lasting effects.
  4. GRATEFUL PEOPLE HAVE A HIGHER SENSE OF WORTH. In order to be grateful, you embrace the idea that others have contributed to the good that is in your life. By acknowledging other people have contributed to your success, you are also acknowledging that others have seen value in you and in turn, this outside validation influences the way you view yourself.

For more information about the benefits of gratitude, read more from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.