|Image courtesy of dontstealmypen |
via Creative Commons.
Every year people in the U.S. (and elsewhere) celebrate Thanksgiving, and spend some time thinking about and expressing their gratitude. But how important is gratitude to us in general? What purpose does it serve? Whom does it benefit? Are we a grateful nation?
According to a recent survey, gratitude plays a very meaningful part in our lives and our world. The John Templeton Foundation commissioned a survey about the views and perceptions of adults in the U.S. around gratitude. Our friends at Greater Good summarized several of the findings. Here's the gist:
"Gratitude was enormously important to respondents—and these numbers suggest that people see themselves as having lots to be grateful for, that gratitude is coming from a place of generosity and humanism, and that feelings of gratitude arise effortlessly and often. Even so, people think about, feel, and espouse gratitude more readily than expressing it to others."Some interesting take-aways from the survey include this:
"More than 90 percent of those polled agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives, and are more likely to have friends." and this:
"When asked why they expressed gratitude, people were more than twice as likely to select options related to the greater good like 'it makes the world a better place' than options related to tit-for-tat reciprocity like 'other people will be nicer to me.'”
So most people believe in the power of gratitude to make us and our world better. And we apparently think that most everyone should be teaching gratitude. For the question "How important is it for each of these people to teach gratitude?", the majority of respondents said that it was "very or somewhat important" for every single category -- from parents to teachers to bosses to even public figures, celebrities, and the media -- to teach gratitude. Imagine the kind of world we could have if it were an integral part of our mainstream culture to model and encourage gratitude.
However, we're far from a society of mutual admiration and appreciation. One troubling aspect of the survey indicated that as many as 8-10% of respondents said that no one had ever taught them gratitude, and also that:
"18-to-24 year olds express gratitude less often than any other age group, and are more likely to express gratitude for self-serving reasons."
Read the complete article.
Read a complete summary of the survey.
So our younger generations are feeling (or at least expressing) less gratitude, and perhaps more selfishness, and a significant percentage of people have never learned the benefits and importance of gratitude. The survey also notes that many people perceive that gratitude in general in the U.S. is declining. What might that mean for the ability of future generations to feel reverence and wonder; to fall in love with (and thus protect) animals and the planet; to make connections with other people and to solve conflicts peacefully; to express generosity, compassion, and kindness?
Surveys like this are a great reminder of how simply we can begin to infuse the lens and tools of humane education into our own lives, and in helping others to become conscientious and engaged citizens working to help people, animals, and the earth; we can start with something as basic as expressing and modeling gratitude. Such "small" acts as growing gratitude are vital to our well-being and our future.
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