“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
I would like to wish each and every member of our South Orangetown Central School District Community – students, families, loved ones, friends, and staff – a very happy Thanksgiving. We are dedicated to the prospect that each of our students understands the meaning of “gratitude” as “the greatest of virtues.” This is because being thankful can have a transformative effect on the lives of our students and their families. For this reason, Thanksgiving is a special holiday event and I am hopeful that all of our students and their families will have an opportunity to reflect on those aspects of their lives for which each is thankful.
On that note, I have included an excerpt from a blog post that I wrote back in November 2015 entitled, Gratitude – the Science of Being Happy.
“What Good is Gratitude?” by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis
So what’s really behind our research results—why might gratitude have these transformative effects on people’s lives? I think there are several important reasons, but I want to highlight four in particular.
- Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present.It magnifies positive emotions. Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like the novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house—they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore. But gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted. In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.
- Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. There’s even recent evidence, including a 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showing that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression. This makes sense: You cannot feel envious and grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t. Those are very different ways of relating to the world, and sure enough, research I’ve done with colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-Ann Tsang has suggested that people who have high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.
- Grateful people are more stress resistant. There’s a number of studies showing that in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering if people have a grateful disposition, they’ll recover more quickly. I believe gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety.
- Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. I think that’s because when you’re grateful, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you—someone else has provided for your well-being, or you notice a network of relationships, past and present, of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now.
During the month of November, many of us will celebrate Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving…these events are perfect opportunities that remind us to be grateful, not only on these special occasions but every day in all that we do.