Friday, March 20, 2009

Key To Happiness Is Gratitude, And Men May Be Locked Out

I have had periods of severe depression, so I work to prevent it. I am always trying to find things to be grateful about. If I twist my ankle, and don't sprain it, I feel grateful. (I have had 7 or 8 sprained ankles, at least three on each one.) If I almost spill a pot of food on the floor and manage to catch it, I feel grateful. This is a deliberate practice that I use to have a happier life. And I'm always looking for the humor in things. I certainly wouldn't say we should feel wonderful no matter what, but as long as we are alive, we might as well feel as good as we can under the circumstances. Expecting someone who has recently lost a loved one, or lost their job, etc., to be cheerful is extremely insensitive and uncaring.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2009) — With Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and high school and college graduations upcoming, there will be plenty of gift-giving and well wishes. When those start pouring in, let yourself be grateful—it’s the best way to achieve happiness according to several new studies conducted by Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University.

Gratitude, the emotion of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, is one of the essential ingredients for living a good life, Kashdan says. Kashdan’s most recent paper, which was recently published online at the Journal of Personality, reveals that when it comes to achieving well-being, gender plays a role. He found that men are much less likely to feel and express gratitude than women.

“Previous studies on gratitude have suggested that there might be a difference in gender, and so we wanted to explore this further—and find out why. Even if it is a small effect, it could make a huge difference in the long run,” says Kashdan.

In one study, Kashdan interviewed college-aged students and older adults, asking them to describe and evaluate a recent episode in which they received a gift. He found that women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts. In addition, older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift giver was another man.

“The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults,” says Kashdan. “Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being.”

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