What is gratitude?

There is a lot of talk about gratitude and gratefulness here. But what is gratitude actually?

The word itself comes from the Latin word “gratia” and can be best translated with grace or graciousness. Words with this Latin root throughout all languages point to kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving or getting something for nothing.

When we say somebody shows gratitude, we refer to an expression of thanks or appreciation of some kind. It is an action stimulated by the experience of the pleasant emotion of gratitude. For the emotion of gratitude to spontaneously rise in me, two factors have to come together:

1) I receive or recognize something that is valuable to me.

2) It is freely given, I haven´t earned it or brought it about in some way.

So gratitude can mean an emotion which usually lasts only for a short period of time. But gratitude can also mean a personality trait, an attitude or mindset and mood. If I am in a grateful mood or if I look at life with a grateful mindset, emotions of gratitude are more likely to occur. A grateful mindset and attitude is making the first step of recognizing and being aware of the wonderful things that I have in my life and accepting them as a gift.

People that are attributed with a grateful personality frequently find themselves in a grateful mood and mindset. Hence they elicit the emotion of gratitude more often which other people usually notice from their joyful expressions of appreciation and content smiles. We can choose to be grateful and cultivate an attitude of gratitude by intentionally focusing on the gifts and blessing that come our way and by expressing gratitude instead of taking them for granted.

To sum it up in a psychological definition given by Bertocci & Millard: “Gratitude is the willingness to recognize the unearned increments of value in one´s experience”