Gratitude | Character Strength | VIA Institute

Become Aware Of Your Strength

Understand what gratitude is all about so you can begin recognizing it in yourself and others.
What is Gratitude?

The character strength of gratitude involves feeling and expressing a deep sense of thankfulness in life, and more specifically, taking the time to genuinely express thankfulness to others. This thankfulness can be for specific gifts or thoughtful acts. It could also more generally reflect recognition of what that person contributes to your life. We can be grateful for deliberate acts by others, such as a piece of art from a child, or for spontaneous treasures, such as a cool breeze on your face on a hot day. What marks gratitude is the psychological response: the transcendent feeling of thankfulness, the sense of having been given a gift by that person or event. Grateful people experience a variety of positive emotions, and those emotions inspire them to act in more virtuous ways – humbler, more persistent, or kinder. Gratitude tends to foster the character strengths of kindness and love, and therefore is closely associated with empathy and with connection to others.

There are two types of gratitude:

  • Benefit-triggered gratitude= the state that follows when a desired benefit is received from a benefactor.
  • Generalized gratitude= the state resulting from awareness and appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to yourself. There are two stages of gratitude:
  • Acknowledging the goodness in your life.
  • Recognizing the source of this goodness is outside yourself.
Which virtue is this strength?
Gratitude is a strength within the virtue category of transcendence, one of six virtues that subcategorize the 24 strengths. Transcendence describes strengths that help you connect to the larger universe and provide meaning. The other strengths in Transcendence are appreciation of beauty & excellence , gratitude , hope , humor , and spirituality .
What the Science Says

Research findings on the benefits of the strength of gratitude found Gratitude is one of the strengths most connected to the experience of a meaningful life. Gratitude also contributes to several physical and psychological health benefits, such as better cardiovascular and immune functioning. The Strength of gratitude has religious or spiritual benefits as well, such as a feeling of interconnectedness with life, a general sense of responsibility towards others, and reduced emphasis on material goods.

Explore Your Strength

Reflect on how you’ve used gratitude in the past, in everyday life and during special or critical times.

Questions to Help You Understand Your Strength Better
  • What circumstances make it most likely you will experience gratitude? What circumstances make it most likely you will express gratitude?
  • Are there people to whom you have not adequately expressed gratitude, as an oversight or intentionally holding it back (e.g., family, friends, co-workers, mentors, community members)? If so, why?
  • To what degree do you express gratitude to others out of a deep feeling of appreciation as opposed to social convention?
Examples of this Strength in Action

Wondering about times that you may be using this strength? Here are a few examples of gratitude at work in the world.

  • Gratitude is expressed when you leave a note on someone’s car or front door who has offered you help in the past or whom you’ve noticed has done good things for your community.
  • Pointing out one small attribute or behavior to one of your close relationships that you appreciate but that typically goes unnoticed.
  • Gratitude expresses itself at work when you let others know when you feel grateful for the opportunities your job affords you or appreciate others for who they are or what they do.

Apply Your Strength

How can you make the most of gratitude in your everyday life? In the moments that matter most? Here are some ideas.
  • Write down three good thing that you are grateful for each day.
  • Set aside at least ten minutes every day to savor a pleasant experience.
  • Make a point to go out of your way to express thanks to someone at work who is not typically recognized. Be sure to offer a few sentences of explanation about why you are grateful to them and note the impact their actions have had on you.