International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Gratitude and the Good Life: How Gratitude Contributes to a Meaningful Life

Philip C. Watkins, Ph.D.

Eastern Washington University

Abstract

My intent in this paper is to show how gratitude is important to a good and meaningful life. After a brief explanation of the definition of gratitude, I present current research showing that gratitude is important to wellbeing. How does gratitude contribute to the good life? I propose that gratitude enhances human flourishing in that it psychologically amplifies the good in one’s life. Gratitude amplifies the good in our experience of the past and the present, and also amplifies the good in our social life. One way that gratitude amplifies the good is by magnifying the meaningfulness of events in our lives. In this way, gratitude may support a meaningful life, and I present research supporting this idea. Because gratitude is one of the most important contributors to wellbeing, it is important to understand who might benefit most from gratitude. The research offers some surprising suggestions here but can probably be summed up in this way: Those who need gratitude most benefit most from gratitude interventions. Often, however, those who most need gratitude do not see this need in their life. I conclude by attempting to offer a balanced perspective on gratitude: Although gratitude is not an easy path to happiness, nonetheless, it is a journey well worth the effort.

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