Gratitude interventions, whereby people regularly reflect on and note things they are grateful for, can be effective in improving well-being. When completing gratitude tasks, people often focus on important people in their life. Therefore, this intervention may work by increasing people’s sense of social connection. As such, gratitude interventions have the potential not just to enhance individual well-being, but also to build stronger interconnections with others and compassionate communities. However, the exact mechanism through which gratitude interventions promote well-being is currently unclear. In this 16-month longitudinal study, we will use a nationally representative sample of 500 US adults to examine whether repeatedly completing a gratitude task improves well-being and increases emotional closeness within social networks, using an innovative network elicitation method to measure granular changes in the participants’ feelings of closeness to their social networks. Importantly, we will examine whether greater social closeness is responsible for the well-being gains. We will compare this intervention to an active control condition requiring participants to write about their feelings. This design will allow us to examine the role of gratitude specifically, as compared to other well-being interventions, on building interconnections with others. Our network elicitation method could be of benefit to the field of contemplative research for studying interventions that target relational components, including compassion training and loving kindness meditation, and thereby deepen the understanding of how social connectedness enhances well-being.
This PEACE grant is designated as the 2021 Samuel B. Hanser Visionary Grant.