Cultivating Hope and Happiness through Grateful Remembering: A Two-Study Assessment of Trait and State Gratitude
Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, Dr. Lindsey Root Luna, and Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren
Gratitude appreciates the past whereas hope anticipates a positive future (Emmons, 2003; Snyder et al., 1991). Gratitude is associated with life satisfaction and happiness (Froh, Yurkewicz, & Kashdan, 2009), and hope is associated with well-being and decreased depression (Snyder, Rand, & Sigmon, 2002; Cheavens, 2000). We conducted two studies investigating the relationship between gratitude and hope. First, we tested trait gratitude as a predictor of hope and happiness. Second, we conducted an experiment to examine whether gratefully reflecting on a past hope that had been fulfilled would prompt greater state hope and happiness. In Study 1, a hierarchical regression analysis of 255 participants’ responses revealed that self-control, patience, and forgiveness accounted for a significant proportion of variance in trait hope and happiness scores. Importantly, in Step 2, gratitude significantly accounted for an additional proportion of variance in both trait hope (20.7%) and happiness scores (8%), ps < .001. In Study 2, 153 participants wrote about a current hoped-for outcome and completed assessments of state hope and happiness. Participants were then randomly assigned to either 1) gratefully remember a past hope that had been fulfilled or 2) a control condition, after which participants again rated their state hope and happiness. Participants who gratefully remembered a fulfilled past hope (vs. the control condition) reported significant increases in state hope and happiness, ps < .001. Although gratitude and hope are rooted in different dimensions of time, these studies demonstrated their powerful relationship. In Study 1, trait gratitude predicted hope and happiness, above and beyond the effects of other virtues. In Study 2, inducing state gratitude for a fulfilled past hope significantly increased state hope and happiness (vs. the control condition). This evidence highlights that gratefully remembering past events with appreciated outcomes can be an effective way to prompt increases in current hope and happiness.
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