Today’s exercise enhances well-being through the fourth element of PERMA: Meaning. It does so through an important emotion – gratitude. Not all researchers agree on the definition of gratitude, but many definitions emphasize that gratitude is characterized by positive appreciation of the helpful actions of other people (for a more in-depth review of some of the different ways in which gratitude has been conceptualized, see this review). There is very clear evidence that gratitude is associated, not only with well-being, but with a wide range of benefits such as physical health and relationship quality.
Today’s Positive Psychology Exercise: Grateful Contemplation
Today’s positive exercise, Grateful Contemplation, will be led by Fred Rogers. (Yes, that’s Mr. Rogers!) To follow along with the grateful contemplation exercise from Mr. Rogers’ 2002 commencement address at Dartmouth College, use this link. If you prefer to read instead of watch, I have also included a transcript of this section of the video below:
- “I’d like to give you all an invisible gift: A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Some of them may be here right now; some may be far away; some – like my astronomy professor – may even be in heaven. But, wherever they are, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you – they’re right inside yourself. And I feel that you deserve quiet time on this special occasion to devote some thought to them. So let’s just take a minute in honor of those who have cared about us all along.”
- Take a silent minute.
- “Whomever you’ve been thinking about, imagine how grateful they must be that, during your silent times, you remember how important they are to you.”
Rash, J. A., Matsuba, M. K., & Prkachin, K. M. (2011). Gratitude and well-being: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention? Applied Psychology: Health & Well-Being, 3(3), 350-369. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01058.x
Abstract: Background: Theory and research have shown that gratitude interventions have positive outcomes on measures of well‐being. Gratitude listing, behavioral expressions, and grateful contemplation are methods of inducing gratitude. While research has examined gratitude listing and behavioral expressions, no study has tested the long‐term effects of a gratitude contemplation intervention on well‐being. Methods: The present experiment examined the efficacy of a 4‐week gratitude contemplation intervention program in improving well‐being relative to a memorable events control condition. Pre‐test measures of cardiac coherence, trait gratitude, and positive and negative affect were collected. Pre‐ and post‐test measures assessing satisfaction with life and self‐esteem were also collected. Daily positive and negative affect were completed twice a week throughout the intervention period. Results: Compared to those in the memorable events condition, participants in the gratitude condition reported higher satisfaction with life and self‐esteem. Trait gratitude was found to moderate the effects of the gratitude intervention on satisfaction with life. Conclusion: Grateful contemplation can be used to enhance long‐term well‐being.