Thanksgiving is here again, and this year it comes with the distress and disappointment of ongoing COVID fears and isolation. While traditionally our country has crowded around a family table to celebrate the holiday season, Thanksgiving place-settings of 2021 may once again be sparsely placed.
How can we find an attitude of gratitude amidst the frustrations of COVID? Research on gratitude mindsets over the past decade have revealed only short-term or placebo effects of speaking gratefulness, and gratitude intervention has not been found effective for reducing depression and anxiety. Is there any hope of turning our grumpy frowns upside down?
Get ready to smile, because a new study published in Current Psychology reveals hidden keys to find your attitude of gratitude.
Researchers evaluated 214 young adults, and investigated characteristics of resilience and empathy in relation to gratitude. According to the authors:
“The results indicate that participants who reported higher resilience also reported higher levels of gratitude and that cognitive empathy strengthened this relationship indirectly. Furthermore, it turned out that age is a demographic characteristic that directly impacts gratitude level. More specifically, the older a person becomes, the more grateful they are.
Overall, our findings are unique in that they extend the literature that suggests that resilience and affective empathy are keys to increasing the level of gratitude. In our studies, resilience appeared as a personal resource linking gratitude and empathy, suggesting that this construct has great potential to strengthen mental health and psychological flourishing. Moreover, we empirically proved that empathy may be the antecedent of gratitude…”
In light of our culturally shared frustration with COVID, there is no better time to begin practicing empathy and flexing resilience muscles. Instead of complaining about missed loved-ones I could practice empathy by bringing a slice of pie to the older woman down the street who spends most every day alone. I could strengthen my resilience by learning the technology to enjoy virtual gatherings with family and friends. There are a plethora of unique ways to grow resilience and empathy, and research shows me that an attitude of gratitude will follow. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
By Terissa Michele Miller, MS Psy
Check out the original research:
This article was originally published in Modern Brain Journal.
About the author:
Teri Miller is a mom of nine and child development researcher with a Masters of Science in Psychology. She is a Research Associate at Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research, co-host of the podcast Brainy Moms, and the Managing Editor at Modern Brain Journal.