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The Joy of Thanks



Shifting into gratitude not only feels great, research shows that it is powerfully healing.

People who knew the extraordinarily prolific and influential writer G. K. Chesterton consistently described him as "exuberant" and "exhilarated" by life. What was his secret? He delighted in the ordinary and was surprised and awed by existence -- his own and all else's. In a letter to his fiancee he wrote, "I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do. The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me: the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud." In short, Chesterton knew and practiced what many of us sense intuitively but fail to act on -- the power of gratitude. Fifty years ago, Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, also recognized the power of gratitude to recharge the soul: He counted the capacity to "appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others" as a central gift of what he called "self-actualizing individuals." And yet nowadays we tend to dismiss gr …

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis (, is the author of The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality and numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals. With Joanna Hill, he is the author of Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul (Templeton Foundation Press, 2001). His research is funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

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GratitudeScienceHuman BehaviorFrom the Archives

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