Contagious Gratitude

November 16, 2017

Since modern day researchers have found that living a life of gratitude improves lives in the psychological, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive realms, you might wonder if practicing gratitude might help you in your life. I believe it can. Consider the results of the study on gratitude conducted by Jane Taylor Wilson. She recruited college students to receive a series of texts over the course of a semester. Students received three types of texts; at the beginning of the week a text would remind the students to begin a class with an intention to have a grateful attitude throughout the class, a second type of text was sent at the end of the week, and reminded the students to reflect on the previous week and ponder 3-5 specific blessings related to learning. This second text also reminded them to appreciate the value of these specific blessings. The third type of text was a mid-week reminder to think about the students’ professors and fellow students that were helping the student to learn and take the time to express gratitude for those who were helping the student to learn.

   What the students reported was when they practiced gratitude and thankfulness they were calmer and had a more positive attitude. Students reported that “life gets a bit brighter,” and “my entire attitude changes when I explicitly practice gratitude.” As students practiced gratitude, they reported less stress. One student stated that the “stressful aspects of learning were shown to be small in the light of gratitude” and “gratitude pulled me out of the pit of negativity and stress.” Another benefit that students found was that they had better focus on the goal of learning. One student reported that when she was “zoning out because I was bored or ungrateful, then gratitude would increase my focus.” The effects of having a positive spirit, less stress, and increased ability to focus on the task of learning helped them to feel motivated about learning. One student reported “when I practiced gratitude, I become less stressed and more willing to push forth and complete any tasks that seemed long and tedious.” Another student reported that the texts and reminders to practice gratitude helped him to start noticing his daily blessings, another student remarked “It’s almost like gratitude is contagious.”

It seems that from the results of this study and other studies of gratitude that a discipline of gratitude can be helpful; of less stress, increased focus and resilience. Won’t you try gratitude?

Questions for Reflection:

1. How might my life be different if I were more grateful?

2. What would a practice of gratitude look like for me?

3. Can therapy help me work through my resistance to thankfulness?

4. How does shame and guilt hinder being thankful?

R. David Johns has a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision, and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) in the state of Colorado. As a counselor and therapist he works with people to better understand the flow of gratitude throughout their life. For an appointment call 303-642-6636 or email at



Wilson, J. T. (2016). Brightening the mind: The impact of practicing gratitude on focus and
    resilience in learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning , 16 (4), 1-13.

Photos courtesy of Freepik and Pixabay.