Thursday, November 28, 2019
One of the better attested findings of psychology is that gratitude is a key to personal contentment and well-being. It tempers feelings of sadness. It reduces any sense of isolation, connecting us to many beyond ourselves, including family members, friends, and teachers"essentially anyone in the wide circle of those who have helped us along. And the research also tells us how to cultivate gratitude. Tell people that they did important good deeds for you. Write that seventh grade teacher who taught you the elements of good writing. Call a friend to recall together how you helped one another through some nadir of youth. Keep a gratitude journal every day or at least every week, marking down the small kindnesses and gifts of affection from which you have benefited.
This insight can be applied to a nation as whole. A country can become less divided and polarized"indeed happier"if it cultivates a public life where gratitude is front and center. Gratitude for past achievements of individuals and communities create common bonds. And if national gratitude can be part of our social happiness, the absence of a politics of gratitude broadly conceived is a pressing American problem.
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