Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Effects of Counting Blessings on Subjective Well-Being: A Gratitude Intervention in a Spanish Sample

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

The Effects of Counting Blessings on Subjective Well-Being: A Gratitude Intervention in a Spanish Sample

Article excerpt

This study examined a gratitude intervention repeating Emmons and McCullough study (2003) in a Spanish sample. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (gratitude, hassles and any event) and kept daily records during 2 weeks of gratitude, affect, quality of relationships, physical and subjective well-being. We added design features to assess the intervention long-term impact (follow-up measures), and to improve the design control (pre-treatment measures). Following the cited authors' analysis, i.e., comparing groups only in the post-test, we replicated their results, finding differences in positive affect and gratitude between the gratitude condition and the hassles condition. However, when including both the pre and the follow-up measures in the analysis, results were replicated only partially, as the difference in gratitude disappeared. Moreover, the difference in positive affect between groups in the post-test seemed to be influenced mainly by a decrease in positive affect in the hassles group. Post-test differences between groups in positive affect disappeared in the follow-up. Gratitude interventions may have an effect on well-being, but we consider other methods to promote gratitude besides gratitude journals should be tested.

Keywords: gratitude, positive emotions, subjective well-being, positive interventions, positive psychology.

Este estudio examina una intervención en gratitud repitiendo el estudio de Emmons y McCullough (2003) en una muestra española. Los participantes fueron asignados de manera aleatoria a una de tres posibles condiciones (gratitud, escollos y cualquier suceso) y evaluaron diariamente durante dos semanas la gratitud, el afecto, la calidad de las relaciones, el bienestar físico y el bienestar subjetivo. Añadimos nuevos aspectos al diseño para evaluar el impacto de la intervención a largo plazo (medidas de seguimiento) y para mejorar el control (medidas pretest). Al hacer los mismos análisis que los autores previamente citados, es decir, al comparar los grupos sólo en el postest, replicamos sus resultados, ya que encontramos diferencias en afecto positivo y en gratitud entre el grupo de gratitud y el grupo de los escollos. Sin embargo, cuando incluimos las medidas pretest y las de seguimiento en el análisis, replicamos los resultados sólo de manera parcial, ya que la diferencia en gratitud desapareció. Además, la diferencia en afecto positivo entre los grupos en el postest parecía estar influida principalmente por un descenso en afecto positivo en el grupo de escollos. Las diferencias entre los grupos en afecto positivo en el postest desaparecieron en el seguimiento. Las intervenciones basadas en la gratitud pueden tener un efecto sobre el bienestar, pero consideramos que se deberían investigar otros métodos aparte de los diarios de gratitud.

Palabras clave: gratitud, emociones positivas, bienestar subjetivo, intervenciones positivas, psicología positiva.

Since the uprising of positive psychology in 1998, an increasing number of studies evaluating interventions to promote well-being has emerged, of which those interventions based on gratitude have received especial attention. Nonetheless, the efficacy of these interventions needs to be investigated more exhaustively.

What is gratitude?

In the recent classification of Peterson and Seligman (2004), gratitude is considered a character strength belonging to the so called "transcendental virtues" with important benefits for both the individual and the society, as previous thinkers such as Cicero or Adam Smith already noticed. In this classification, Emmons (2004) defines gratitude as "a sense of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, whether the gift be a tangible benefit from a specific other or a moment of peaceful bliss evoked by natural beauty" (p.554), i. e., an other-directed pleasant feeling about a benefit received, where the benefactor might be persons or non-human intentional agents. …

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