While the benefits of gratitude are being investigated scientifically, after learning about the success of an eleven minute convocation speech by George Saunders, “Congratulations, by the way,” it was intriguing to find a relationship between kindness and gratitude in the Journal of Happiness Studies. It seems that weaving an inner tapestry of gratitude, kindness, and happiness may be dramatically life enriching.
Based on what we know from gratitude studies, it may even be possible to foster gratitude and happiness in one’s own life by taking a kindness tip from Saunders, who teaches at Syracuse University. His address to the 2013 graduating class there has just been released in hardcover: Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness.
In looking at the kindness-gratitude relationship, the journal reported:
We further suggest that both kindness and gratitude bear close relations with sujective happiness. Emmons and McCullough (2003) investigated the intervention of counting blessings in experimental studies. They showed that, compared to a control group, a conscious focus on gratitude led to reductions in negative affect and increases in optimistic appraisals, positive affect, offering emotional support, sleep quality, and well-being. Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting.
Kindness and Regret
In the interwoven world of gratitude-kindness-and happiness, here is what Saunders had to say about kindness and regret. He tells us of a seventh-grader at school who was often ignored or teased by others. And while he says he was moderately kind, one day the young girl’s family simply moved away. If he could have been kinder in the future, he suddenly lost his chance.
His thoughts of this young girl became a focal point of the talk.
He said, “So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”
Saunders added: “It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder. Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.” George Saunders's Advice to Graduates - NYTimes.com
In relationships, there is often the chance that simmering anger or just indifference will creep in. But those who nurture an attitude of gratitude may foster a reservoir of kindness that enriches their own lives as well as the lives of others.
J Happiness Stud. Author manuscript; available in PMC Mar 13, 2007. Published in final edited form as: J Happiness Stud. Sep 2006; 7(3): 361–375. doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z
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Copyright 2014 Rita Watson