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Kalamatianos, A.; Kounenou, K.; Pezirkianidis, C.; Kourmousi, N. Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 11 December 2023).
Kalamatianos A, Kounenou K, Pezirkianidis C, Kourmousi N. Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 11, 2023.
Kalamatianos, Antonios, Kalliope Kounenou, Christos Pezirkianidis, Ntina Kourmousi. "Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 11, 2023).
Kalamatianos, A., Kounenou, K., Pezirkianidis, C., & Kourmousi, N.(2023, June 16). Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions. In Encyclopedia.
Kalamatianos, Antonios, et al. "Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions." Encyclopedia. Web. 16 June, 2023.
Gratitude in Positive Psychology Interventions

Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are a relatively novel field consisting of “treatment methods or intentional activities that aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviors, or cognitions". They have demonstrated various findings in promoting mental health in different settings, such as schools, workplaces, organizations, etc. Gratitude constitutes a positive psychology factor, which is displayed as a working mechanism of change in interventions using gratitude exercises that aim to promote well-being.

positive psychology intervention gratitude wellbeing emotion character strength

1. Introduction

Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are a relatively novel field consisting of “treatment methods or intentional activities that aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviors, or cognitions” (p. 468) [1]. During the last 15 years, they have demonstrated various findings in promoting mental health in different settings, such as schools, workplaces, organizations, etc. [2][3]. According to the Broaden and Build theory [4], positive sentiments may change and reinforce thinking and behavior patterns and ultimately expand personal resources and promote physical and psychological well-being.

2. The Concept of Gratitude

Gratitude constitutes a positive psychology factor, which is displayed as a working mechanism of change in interventions using gratitude exercises that aim to promote well-being [5]. Gratitude has been deemed as a basic positive emotion that individuals experience in their daily lives [6] and a trait-like or dispositional attitude toward life [5]. The grateful emotion is considered as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life” (p. 460) [7]. It stems from the feeling one has when one personally benefits from another person’s intentional action, by a human or supernatural force [8], or the removal or absence of a negative factor or life condition [9]. As a consequence of feeling grateful, individuals tend to react positively and reciprocate an act of kindness [10].
More specifically, firstly, gratitude has been studied as a positive emotion theoretically [4][11][12] and empirically connected with other positive emotions [13]. A study [14], in accordance with the Broaden and Build theory [15], found that gratitude reduced the adverse effects of negative emotions. Secondly, as a character strength, gratitude is one of the emotional traits and indicates the individual’s tendency to recognize and respond emotionally by experiencing gratitude for acts of kindness that benefit him or her [14]. A person who exhibits high levels of gratitude may experience this trait more often, more intensely, and for a longer duration. In addition, individuals who are characterized as highly grateful have a greater range of recognition of gratitude sources. Finally, people who apply gratitude manage to connect every blessing or benefit they recognize in their lives to more than one source [14].
Three basic conditions must be met for individuals to develop high levels of gratitude as an element of their character, as stated by Watkins and his colleagues [16], the first being a strong, subjective sense of abundance, namely, a feeling that they have generally been “treated well”. Secondly, grateful people tend to appreciate the simple pleasures of everyday life and enjoy their fruits, without having to be given an extreme or intense trigger. Finally, a remarkably grateful person is characterized by an appreciation of others and their contribution to everyday life events and by the expression of this appreciation to others.

3. Gratitude and Well-Being

Numerous studies have analyzed gratitude’s relationship with social or physical well-being [17] and with positive emotions, life satisfaction, and subjective vitality [14][16] and have proven that it enhances the well-being of individuals [18][19].
A recent meta-analysis [20] has shown gratitude’s low to moderate effects on various psychological variables. Gratitude is associated with experiencing positive emotions, positive interpersonal relationships, meaning in life, and happiness [21][22][23][24]. Park et al. [25] pointed out that, out of the 24 character strengths they studied, only hope and zest had a stronger relationship with happiness than gratitude. Happiness may be viewed as the frequent experience of positive affect which leads to greater life satisfaction [26].
Furthermore, many experimental trials have examined the benefits of gratitude on mental health, and they have determined that gratitude is linked to positive psychological states, such as optimism and happiness, and plays a protective role against experiencing negative emotions [27][28]. Optimism may be seen as a person’s expectations of good outcomes [29]. People who experience gratitude have also been found to show elevated psychological resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress [30]. Resilience refers to one’s positive adjustment and effectiveness in recovering from negative experiences [31]. Gratitude has been empirically associated with resilience [28] and a fact that supports this notion is that high gratitude levels predict higher levels of well-being indices during adversities, such as the quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic [32][33]. Finally, higher levels of gratitude in adults and older adults have been associated with fewer psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression [16].
Alkozei et al. [18] proposed two causal models to explain the mechanisms through which gratitude contributes to individuals’ psychological flourishing based on the Broaden and Build theory [12]. According to the cognitive model, gratitude causes a cognitive expansion in the mind by helping it interpret negative or ambiguous events in a more positive way and focus more attention on the positive stimuli of each environment. These mechanisms, in turn, lead to the building of emotional, social, and physical resources, which are utilized when the individuals are faced with stressful events, leading to higher levels of well-being and consequently to a more frequent experience of gratitude acting as its feedback. The second model supports that experiencing gratitude expands the cognitive field of the mind by helping people find new ways to return the act of kindness to their benefactors, thus resulting in the creation of meaningful interpersonal connections and the building of positive relationships, which then lead to the availability of higher levels of social support. These mechanisms result in the achievement of higher levels of well-being, which afterward leads to a more frequent and intense experience of gratitude in everyday life.

4. Positive Psychology Interventions Focusing on Gratitude

Gratitude interventions include gratitude lists, in which the person counts its blessings [34][35][36], identifying sources of gratitude and simply reflecting on them or actively expressing gratitude, such as through a gratitude letter[37] or visit [23][35][36], and finally enhancing positive reframing [38]. The implementation of a blessing-counting exercise once a week increased participants’ gratitude and life satisfaction [34], while Seligman and his colleagues [23] experimentally applied a blessing-counting exercise to adults and the positive effects on their well-being were maintained for up to six months after the end of the intervention compared to the control group. Similar findings on the effectiveness of gratitude interventions in adolescent and child samples have been presented by other studies [39][40][41].


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