Faculty Column: Gratitude


Until we entered the 21st century, the field of psychology primarily focused its work on pathology, which basically means the study of disease.  As a result, psychologists spent most of their time researching, studying, diagnosing, treating, and teaching “abnormal behavior” in order to identify the causes and ultimately help those effected.   Their goal was to help people get back to what they called “normal” behavior by applying various types of therapies, medications, and possibly even surgery.  Of course, “normal” is a subjective term but that was the goal.   Take a person who is in the negative area and move them up to zero or “normal.”

Around the year 2000, psychologists like Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania began to speak up about a large group of people that they seemed to think psychology was ignoring.  These were the large number of “normal” people that wanted more out of life.  Seligman and others thought that psychology could play a role in peoples’ growth and hopefully push them up into the positive numbers.  And thus began positive psychology.

Since then, positive psychologists have researched things like the following:

  • How much money do people need to be happy?
  • How do our social relationships and ties to the community impact our well being?
  • Are married couples happier than single people?
  • What are the best strategies to improve life satisfaction?

Since we are entering the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I’d share one of those research-based strategies that has been gaining a lot of popularity among people who want more out of life.  It’s called a gratitude journal.

People who use this strategy develop the habit of frequently listing things in their lives they are grateful for.  Typically, this is done right before going to bed or as soon as they wake up.  Journaling right before bed helps people to decompress after a long day.  Research points to better sleep as a result.  Starting your day with some journaling gets a new day off to a positive start.  And all this time I thought that was Wawa’s job!

A tumultuous election coupled with the normal stressors of the holiday season make right now a great time to remind yourself of the good things in your life.  I, for one, will be giving this strategy a shot.

If you would like more information about gratitude research and/or tips about gratitude journaling, check out the following websites:





Have a wonderful holiday!