57 Chasing Gratitude

Dionne Highley

This chapter is dedicated to:

All Teachers

In particular: Dr. Alessandra Von Burg who provided support in the process of conducting this research and writing this book.

&

My sister Solansch.

Sol, my greatest inspiration.  I want to thank you for everything you have taught me and continue to teach me.  I look up to you in more ways than you could ever imagine.  You are the most positive and selfless person I have ever met.  You taught me to love myself and for that, I will forever be grateful.  Thank you for showing me that by practicing gratitude I will find contentment within myself and the life I have.  You are the catalyst behind this book and the reason why I practice gratitude.

Te amo.

 

 

Keywords: Persuasion, Appreciation, Virtues, Feelings, Character

 


To find contentment, practice gratitude. Since the pandemic started I felt angry and sad at the world. As the months passed, I realized with the help of my family and friends that it was especially during this difficult time I had to reflect and be grateful for all my blessings. Since this realization, I have been especially wary of cultivating an attitude of gratitude in my everyday life because I know it will help me develop a more positive outlook on life. After much reflection and research, I have acquired the necessary knowledge to talk about the rhetoric of gratitude.  My main argument for this chapter is that gratitude is a positive feeling that everyone should practice every day. Gratitude will enhance people’s psychological health and well-being, it helps build interpersonal relationships and it serves as an antidote to negative attitudes. It is a persuasive mechanism on how to deal with people as it facilitates compliance.

 

Gratitude for Personal Wellness

 

Having an attitude of gratitude, simply expressing appreciation, and being more thankful can measurably improve people’s wellbeing. Gratitude is not just an action but a positive emotion that Cicero quoted as “the greatest of the virtues” (Carr, 2013). Practicing gratitude can make people appreciative and be more satisfied with their life as a whole. It encourages people to focus on the good instead of what could be better. By acknowledging the goodness in their life they will celebrate what exists instead of what they wish it to be.  As people learn to shut down negative thoughts it will help them reduce stress which has a lot of negative effects on their body and mind. It can also reduce levels of depression and anxiety as people focus on the goodness in life. This can simply be a motivational push to seize the day as if it were someone’s last. People will wake up every day feeling grateful to be alive. It is the healthiest of all human emotions.

Gratitude will influence people to be more optimistic as it helps people see what’s there instead of what isn’t. It will guide people to look on the bright side of things even when there seems to be none. It will turn bad things into good things and failures into lessons. When someone is practicing gratitude they are also being optimistic which will eventually lead them to act in ways that promote a healthier lifestyle. For example, 20 years ago my mother was in a car accident where she broke her spine and the doctors told her she would never be able to walk again. Even after hearing this news, she was grateful to be alive. She stayed optimistic and hopeful she would one day walk again and one year later she did. By practicing gratitude every day as a mindset people will become happier and healthier.

 

Gratitude for Relationship Building

 

Practicing gratitude can excite pro-social behavior. A person may express thankfulness for being helped with a past action with the hopes that they will be helped in the future. This will create a culture where people are mutually benefiting from acts of kindness. Gratitude builds beneficial interpersonal relationships; especially friendships. People who express their gratitude for others tend to be more forgiving and less narcissistic. When someone is grateful for their friendship with a friend or a nice gesture their friend does for them, they will likely be more inclined to reciprocate positively. Their friendship will grow stronger as each person is more motivated to benefit each other in the future. As the cycle continues, the social bond between beneficiary and benefactor will grow (Manuela, 2015). For example, when my best friend Claire made me chicken noodle soup when I was sick it made me appreciate her as a friend and her kind gesture. Later that month when she got sick, I offered to drive her home as a response to her taking care of me when I was sick. This act of reciprocity is exchanging positive emotions that will help shape a culture of gratitude.

 

Gratitude for Anti-negativity

 

Practicing gratitude serves as an antidote to certain negative (painful or aversive) attitudes. It blocks toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, regret, and depression which can be detrimental to our happiness. Gratitude involves feelings, and these feelings are inherently positive. For instance, consider the negative attitude of regret: an attitude in which a state of affairs is constructed as unfortunately in contrast with certain alternatives. Regret is a negative attitude, which contributes to (and perhaps partly constitutes) unhappiness (Manuela, 2015). As philosopher Robert Roberts puts it, the grateful beneficiary “has a shield against such debilitating regrets because he or she is inclined to dwell on the favorable, rather than the regrettable” (Manela, 2015). Now consider the feeling of resentment. Resentment can also be held to be a negative emotion that evokes unpleasant and aversive feelings in the resented. By receiving an act of benevolence from someone who wronged them in the past can help them alleviate the ill they bore them previously. This claim follows that feelings of gratitude are positive and focusing on the positive feelings can mitigate the negative feelings.

 

The feeling of gratitude is not always uniquely positive; sometimes negative feelings, like those of grief, sorrow, or anger, are what make a beneficiary grateful (Manuela, 2015). Negative feelings of gratitude also illuminate the possibility that people might prefer not to be benefited by an act of kindness because of their benefactor’s suffering. For example, Sophie is leaving a grocery store with two armfuls of groceries when she stumbles and falls, spilling all her groceries. Claire, a kind stranger with a single armful of groceries runs over to help her, and in the process, spills her own groceries. Sophie immediately felt the need to thank the stranger for helping her, but also to apologize, or at least express regret, for her spilling her own groceries in the process. Sophie is experiencing feelings of sorrow and anger because Claire suffered while helping her. Even though Sophie is grateful for Claire’s kindness she has negative feelings of guilt due to her benefactor’s sacrifice. This also ties into people experiencing feelings of indebtedness when receiving a good bearing. Instead of feeling uplifted, happy, or grateful about a positive action received people experience negative emotions of reciprocity because they are worried about repayment. Nevertheless, negative feelings do not inhibit you from being thankful.

 

In conclusion, I define gratitude as a positive feeling of appreciation and celebration for the things people have. It is a mindset that needs to be practiced and embraced every day in order for people to become healthier and happier. People that have grateful mindsets have a worldview where everything they have; even life itself is a gift. This not only will make them less concerned about materialistic things which would in return make people focus on generosity and helpfulness but it will also generate empathic emotions. People will be able to understand and appreciate others for the little things they do like a stranger opening the door for someone or a mom cooking their kids’ favorite meal. Gratitude is a praiseworthy and favorable human quality to endeavor. Expressing gratitude is an act of persuasion towards building friendships with others and helping people find fulfillment. If people remind themselves that their life is good, they are reminding themselves that they are good people that will have good things happen to them. It flushes the tide of disappointment and brings in the tide of love. This will boost people’s self-esteem and confidence, as they stop comparing themselves or their life to others. Gratitude is the best attitude that will attract much better and bigger things that people will continue to be grateful for.

 


Works Cited

 

Carr, David. “Varieties of Gratitude.” The Journal of value inquiry 47.1 (2013): 17–28. Web.

Kristjánsson, K. “An aristotelian virtue of gratitude.” Topoi, 34(2), (2015) 499-511. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11245-013-9213-8

Manela, Tony. “Negative Feelings of Gratitude.” Journal of Value Inquiry 50.1 (2015): 129-40. ProQuest. Web. 15 Mar. 2021.

McCullough, M.E. & Emmons, R.A. & Tsang, Jo-Ann. “The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (2002) doi: 112-127. 10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.112.

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Rhetoric in Everyday Life by Dionne Highley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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