Gratitude tips

by on July 27, 2007 at 4:23 pm in Philosophy | Permalink

These are from the new and noteworthy Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, by Robert Emmons:

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

2. Remember the Bad

3. Ask Yourself Three Questions (What have I received from…?, What have I given to…?, and What troubles and difficulty have I caused …?

4. Learn prayers of gratitude

5. Come to your senses

6. Use visual reminders

7. Make a vow to practice gratitude

8. Watch your language

9. Go through the motions [of showing gratitude, thanking, smiling, etc.]

10. Think outside the box [TC: this one should have been left out]

I didn’t learn anything from this book, but in terms of both truth and importance it is one of the most significant books you can find.  Ever.  Provided you live enough above subsistence, gratitude is the single most important key to personal happiness.  And how commercial society affects gratitude is one of the great underexplored questions of economic science and sociology.

CM July 27, 2007 at 5:11 pm

“Provided you live enough above subsistence, gratitude is the single most important key to personal happiness. And how commercial society affects gratitude is one of the great underexplored questions of economic science and sociology.”

I couldn’t agree more. If all that a few moments thinking on gratitude regularly is to achieve is to create/reaffirm ones sense of good fortune, and the insignificance of some of the reasons/excuses for frustrations, then it is a high value exercise indeed. It can of course do much more. Truth is, most people don’t spend just a few moments regularly giving it serious thought. Thanks for the reminder.

dj superflat July 27, 2007 at 5:31 pm

this may explain why religion is so effective at making people happy, healthy, etc. almost by definition, religion requires that you be grateful to another — a deity — for what’s good in your life, rather than attributing it to your own abilities, skills, etc.

robertdfeinman July 27, 2007 at 5:44 pm

From the thesaurus: grateful -
“obliged, indebted. Grateful, thankful describe an appreciative attitude for what one has received.”

To my mind this implies that the recipient is in an inferior position to the giver. For example, grateful to one’s boss for the job, promotion, whatever. Notice also the sense of obligation.

Is this the best position in life, to be the recipient of charity? I thought the ideal in the US was the self-made man.

Scot Johnson July 27, 2007 at 5:56 pm

Ok, this may sound a little creepy, but do I practice gratitude because I really care about others? Or is this something that I do (only/mostly) for me? Perhaps I should just read the book!

Johan Almenberg July 27, 2007 at 6:20 pm

robertdfeinman writes: “I thought the ideal in the US was the self-made man.”

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a self-made man.

Michael Giesbrecht July 27, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Nietzsche had an interesting take on gratitude:

“Gratitude and revenge.— The reason the man of power is grateful is this. His benefactor has, through the help he has given him, as it were laid hands on the sphere of the man of power and intruded into it: now, by way of requital, the man of power in turn lays hands on the sphere of his benefactor through the act of gratitude. It is a milder form of revenge. If he did not have the compensation of gratitude, the man of power would have appeared unpowerful and thenceforth counted as such. That is why every community of the good, that is to say originally the powerful, places gratitude among its first duties. Swift suggested [Actually, it was Alexander Pope.] that men are grateful in the same degree as they are revengeful.” – Aphorism 44, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits.

Ray G July 27, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Dennis Prager’s daily radio show, and book are indespensible.

Stan July 28, 2007 at 2:13 am

Thank you for sharing your blog with us Tyler.

I guess we never take a moment to thank the bloggers who are very much a large part of our lives..
The blogger/blog reader relationship is very interesting…

joan July 28, 2007 at 2:35 am

“To my mind this implies that the recipient is in an inferior position to the giver.”

For the non religious, gratitude can be to society and the people in the past, who’s hard work and creativity provided us a much better life. Economists, at least, should be aware of their inheritance of infrastructure, institutions, and intellectual capital. Believing that all you have is due to your own efforts is the path to selfishness and, if this post is right, unhappiness.

Keith July 28, 2007 at 5:11 am

Alright, I was being snarky. I’m sincerely grateful that Marginal Revolution actually has some commenters worth reading.

robertdfeinman July 28, 2007 at 11:24 am

Dirk:
Actually overpopulation and resource depletion is the biggest problem in society today, inequality is just one of its manifestations.

To deal with the underlying problem requires a reconsideration of what the goals of society should be. This is complicated by the fact that societies at different stages of development require different solutions. The predominant economic/political philosophy only permits a single solution however, growth.

Growth in the advanced societies will supposedly eliminate the need to equalize wealth maldistribution. The “rising tides lifts all boats” argument.

Growth in the developing countries (China and India) is leading to environmental degradation and probable economic collapse when the have-nots start to cause civil unrest over their inferior economic status. There were an estimated 88,000 protests by workers and peasants in China just last year.

Growth in the undeveloped countries needs to be done. No one should have to live on $1-2 per day. After 60 years of trying to fix the situation the results haven’t been all that was expected. There is no consensus on what to try next.

The developed world doesn’t need growth, we have enough “stuff’. We need to allocate our resources better. We need to stop squandering them on militarism and redirect them towards socially productive goals. We need to scale down our total consumption to a sustainable level. All these goals are in direct conflict with the present capitalist/consumerist model. There are probably less than 100 economists willing to examine the present economic axioms and acknowledge that we live in a finite world. Try the “ecological economists” like Herman Daly to get a feeling for their approach.

Ray G July 28, 2007 at 12:29 pm

“Inequality is the biggest problem in society today, and people need to wake up to it and take it more seriously. Not to get absorbed in things that make them happy without money while the rich get richer.”

Not the biggest problem, but class warfare and envy are definitely an eternal one.

Someone whose happiness is affected by others success or lack thereof will never be happy anyway.

It’s a serious psychological flaw much like the insecure adolescent girl who suddenly feels less pretty when another pretty girl walks in the room. Verbally abusing the other girl, calling her fat or whatever, of course does not make the first girl any skinnier, prettier or whatever, but it makes her feel better in some twisted way for about 2 seconds.

“. . . Not to get absorbed in things that make them happy without money”. . .

So their happiness in and of itself is inconsequential. It only counts if they have money to go along with that perceived happiness.

Is Dirk real?

Amanda July 29, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Kurt Vonnegut often wrote of his uncle, who had the habit of saying, “hey, everyone, it’s a wonderful day and all is going well and we’re happy; let’s notice that and remember it.”

It’s hard to have a bad day and not either come home and gripe about it, or think about griping about it. Stopping to point out good days makes it more likely that I (at least) will remember them.

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