New research showed the recipients of an emailed expression of gratitude (thank you mail) felt much more “ecstatic” than writers expected.
Two psychologists- Dr Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley attempted to understand why so few people actually send “thank yous” and found that it is because many people totally “miscalibrate” the effect of an appreciative email. They underestimate the positive feelings it will bring. People tend to think that the mail is not going to be that big a deal.
They also overestimate how insincere the note may appear and how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel, their study found.
However, after receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were “ecstatic,” scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they’d evoke a 3.
To be clear — the notes in question were not your typical “thanks for the Amazon gift card.” Rather, a short “gratitude letter” to a person who had affected them in some way. Sample letters included missives of appreciation to fellow students and friends who offered guidance through the college admissions process, job searches and tough times. In lab experiments, Dr. Amit Kumar observed that it took most subjects less than five minutes to write the letters.
Along with underestimating the value of sending a note to another person, many seemed to be concerned with how much their writing would be scrutinized.
As it turned out, most recipients didn’t care how the notes were phrased, they cared about warmth. Participants were also judged to be more competent at writing than they expected.
The finding: People tend to undervalue the positive effect they can have on others for a tiny investment of time.
What is Gratitude?
Most of us associate gratitude with saying “thank you” to someone who has helped us or given us a gift. From a scientific perspective, gratitude is not just an action (of saying thank you or giving a return gift- both tangible and intangible). Gratitude is a positive emotion, which is really important because it serves a purpose.
Positive psychologists contend that gratitude is more than feeling thankful for something, it is more like a deeper appreciation for someone (or something,) which produces longer lasting positivity.
Modern Psychological Perspectives on Gratitude
Studies show (among other things) that being more grateful can lead to increased levels of well-being (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000).
Expressing your thanks can really improve your overall sense of well-being: studies show that grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic. Furthermore, gratitude is related negatively to depression and positively to life satisfaction.
Gratitude is also a powerful tool for strengthening interpersonal relationships. People who express their gratitude tend to be more willing to forgive others and less narcissistic. Giving thanks to those who have helped you strengthens your relationships and promotes relationship formation and maintenance, as well as relationship connection and satisfaction.
Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough have done extensive research into the effects of gratitude practices. In one study in 2003 they found that after 10 weeks, the people who had focused on gratitude in their lives showed significantly more optimism in many areas of their lives, including health and exercise.
Toepfer, Cichy, and Peters (2011) conducted a study where people were asked to write and deliver a letter to someone for whom they were grateful. Right after the task their happiness levels and life satisfaction were dramatically impacted even weeks later. In the pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude is showing a direct and long-lasting effect thus the more gratitude we experience the happier our lives will be.
Stronger Self Control
Self-Control helps us to be disciplined and focused and to persist with what is subjectively the most important for our long-term well-being.
A study by DeSteno et al. in 2014 found that self-control significantly increased when subjects chose gratitude over happiness and feeling neutral. One of the study’s authors, Professor Ye Li, said:
“Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercises opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking.”
Better Physical and Mental Health
Recent research performed in 2015 showed that patients with heart failure, who completed gratitude journals showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and better moods thus dramatically reducing their symptoms of heart failure after only 8 weeks.
Why Gratitude Works
Catharsis is the process in which an individual releases strong emotions. For example: The guilt associated with failing to meet obligations may cause a person to show gratitude to another whom they have let down, in an attempt to release that guilt. The acts following that event are meant to show the deep appreciation that the friends have for each other.
The other possible explanation of how gratitude functions are reciprocity. In regard to gratitude, it is the exchange of positive emotion. Someone performs an act of gratitude for another person, and in turn, that person may be motivated to do something gracious for the former person or continue the favor for a stranger.
There may be different ways to practise Gratitude in our daily lives. In the end, Gratitude is a human emotion that can be most simply defined as appreciation or acknowledgment of an altruistic act.