The Science of Gratitude

Research shows gratitude isn’t just a pleasant feeling—being grateful can also support greater health, happiness, and wisdom in ourselves and our communities.

Illustration/ Geraldine Sy

Gratitude offers us a way of embracing all that makes our lives what they are. More than just a happy feeling for the parts of our lives currently going our way, gratitude encompasses the willingness to expand our attention so that we perceive more of the goodness we are always receiving.

In the past two decades, a growing body of evidence in the field of social science has found that gratitude has measurable benefits for just about every area of our lives. Gratitude appears to contribute substantially to individual well-being and physical health. So much so that the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—a leader in research on the science of social and emotional well-being—describes gratitude as the “social glue” key to building and nurturing strong relationships.

Gratitude helps people realize that they wouldn’t be where they are without the help of others.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and one of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude, defines gratitude as having two parts. The first is an affirmation of goodness: People can learn to wake up to the good around them and notice the gifts they have received. The second part of gratitude is