Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness.
Research shows that people differ in the degree to which they are inclined to experience and express gratitude. As a result, gratitude is said to exist both as a temporary feeling and as a dispositional trait. In both cases, gratitude involves a process of recognizing, first, that one has obtained a positive outcome and, second, that there is an external source for that good outcome.
A social emotion, gratitude strengthens relationships. Its roots run deep in evolutionary history—emanating from the survival value of helping others and being helped in return. Studies show that there are specific areas of the brain that are involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude.
Gratitude is a spontaneous feeling but, increasingly, research demonstrates its value as a practice—that is, making conscious efforts to count one’s blessings. Studies show that people can deliberately cultivate gratitude—and there important social and personal benefits to doing so.