You Don’t Need to Feel Grateful to be Grateful

March 1, 2021

Louis Tay

Our research team was fortunate to receive a grant to study the similarities and differences between gratitude to people and gratitude to God. During a three-day conference, we discussed the meaning of gratitude among theologians, philosophers, and psychologists.

One of the attendees remarked that gratitude is often believed to be an intense emotion. Yet, the way we typically measure gratitude is based on the daily recognition of those who have benefited us. Fascinatingly, it is the posture of gratitude that is important.

Research shows that gratitude is an “other-praising” behavior.  The behavior of saying “thank you” or “I appreciate you” elicits a high level of positivity in the other person. In romantic couples, this simple act led to greater feelings of positivity and feeling loved. Expressions of gratitude can promote greater well-being in others and spark a virtuous positive resonance in relationships.

We don’t need to feel grateful to be grateful. The elevated emotions may come after we enact gratitude.

How often are you expressing gratitude in your daily life? Can you say “yes” to the following?

  • I write “thank you” in my emails when someone helps me with something, regardless of whether it is their job
  • I verbalize my “thank yous” to others on a daily basis
  • I craft “thank you” notes for those who have helped me

If you said “yes” to all three, that’s wonderful. If not, think about ways you can act with greater gratitude. Being grateful can promote well-being in others -- and make you a more positive person!


Be well,

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science.  Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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