Greater Good Science Center
Podcast #77 — Aired December 14, 2015

For the final episode of BetterWorldians Radio’s Gratitude Series, we’re talking with the Greater Good Science Center about its Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude project. Science Director Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas will discuss the fascinating research being done about the benefits of gratitude and how it’s improving lives and relationships.

 

 

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Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas
Science Director, Greater Good Science Center

Emiliana Simon-Thomas is the Science Director at the Greater Good Science Centerat UC Berkeley. She earned her doctorate at Berkeley, using behavioral and neuroscientific methods to examine how emotions influence thinking and decision making. During her postdoc, Emiliana’s work focused on the biological underpinnings of pro-social states like compassion and love of humanity. Currently, Emiliana runs the GGSC’s Expanding Gratitude project, the Research Fellowship program, and co-leads GG101x: The Science of Happiness, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the EdX platform that has reached over 300K people. Her current work examines the advantages of authentically connecting with others, being kind, and belonging to a community with regards to physical health, well-being, psychosocial functioning and performance. Emiliana’s work aims to fully explore the potential for – as well as the benefits of – living a more meaningful life.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Im Ray Hansell joined today by my co-host and life partner MarySue Hansell. By the way were the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds, while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date over thirty-five million good deeds have been done in our Better World by more than three and a half million people. Good deeds like expressing gratitude, acts of kindness, sending notes to real world sick kids, just to name a few. Today we have the final episode of our gratitude series for the holiday season. Were featuring four special guests who will each speak about the importance of gratitude and the positive impact it can have on all of our lives. This week well be speaking with Doctor Emiliana Simon-Thomas from the Greater Good Science Center. Emiliana Simon-Thomas is the Science Director at the Greater Good Science Centerat UC Berkeley. She earned her doctorate at Berkeley, using behavioral and neuroscientific methods to examine how emotions influence thinking and decision-making. During her postdoc, Emilianas work focused on the biological underpinnings of pro-social states like compassion and love of humanity. Currently, she runs the Greater Good Science Centers Expanding Gratitude project, her work there examines the advantages of authentically connecting with others, being kind, and belonging to a community with regards to physical health, well-being, psychosocial functioning and performance. Emilianas work aims to fully explore the potential, as well as the benefits of living a more meaningful life. Hi Emiliana, thanks for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Emiliana
Hi Ray, hi MarySue thank you for that delightful introduction.

Raymond Hansell
Oh youre very, very welcome. Well lets start out for our listeners by asking you this question, what is the Greater Good Science Center?

Emiliana
Yeah thats a wonderful question. The Greater Good Science Center is an organization within the department of psychology at UC Berkley. And what we do is track cutting edge science to bring research tested insights about the power of social connections, kindness, and community to public awareness. We write about and post articles by leading experts on our award winning online magazine. We support active research through partnerships, grants and fellowships. And we put on landmark educational events and all of this under the main aim of trying to drive and disseminate the science of a meaningful life in very applicable ways to the public.

Raymond Hansell
Thats wonderful. And can you describe to our listeners what your role there is?

Emiliana
Yes, so Im the Science Director at the Greater Good Science Center, which means I get the privilege of looking through all of the recent studies that explore these values and idea that compassion actually has a measurable impact on the body, that its beneficial and salubrious for the long term. And figuring out how to write about it in a way that is accessible for someone who is not an expert, and also distilling it into insights that could be applied for, perhaps, a teacher in a classroom or a manager in a healthcare facility. I also support and direct our fellowship programs. So we offer funding to faculties, to graduate students, to undergraduate students, to post-doctorial researchers, both at UC and Nationwide over the course of the years. And finally I do some writing and teaching, and the main teaching that I do is I construct a course called The Science of Happiness, which is offered on the EdX massive open online course platform. And its an eight week course, which really covers the space that the Greater Good Science Center has been focusing on for the past twelve, thirteen years.

Raymond Hansell
Thats very interesting. So what is it about gratitude that, that you get so passionate about?

Emiliana
Gratitude is really fun because its not a hard sell. So if you think about the sorts of ideas that we really focus on at the Greater Good; compassion, altruism, forgiveness. Some of these can be a little bit touchy for people and feel like a little bit of, theres some convincing that needs to happen to endorse the idea that, yes this is a key human virtue or value that I aspire to. But gratitude, most traditions, most philosophies, most spiritual and religious orientations actually hold gratitude as a key value, and have practices or activities that are meant to build and to strengthen, and to percolate gratitude in individuals and communities. So at a certain level, theres an easiness to it that I love. The other thing thats wonderful about it is its kind of multiple effectiveness. Gratitude has multiple aspects to it, its both powerful in its capacity to strengthen ones optimistic outlook, it also has this interpersonal kind of glue component to it, it builds trust between people, it strengthens communities. So it has this kind of multiple outlet impact that some of our, some of the other themes maybe dont have as much, have as much impact in that regard. So I love gratitude because, on the one hand its any easy sell, and on the other hand, its sort of pervasive, it permeates many aspects of health and well-being, social interactions, and of community wellness.

Raymond Hansell
So it sounds like youre grateful for gratitude.

Emiliana
I am grateful for gratitude, Im grateful to be a person who gets to think and talk and endorse it and practice it all the time.

Raymond Hansell
It has been called the cardinal virtue of virtues, is it not?

Emiliana
You know, Im sure it has and I would again in many ways, because theres little pushback on it, I would agree with that claim.

Raymond Hansell
Can you talk a little bit about expanding the science and practice of Gratitude Project that I think was connected to the John Templeton Foundation?

Emiliana
Yeah, so UC Berkley in collaboration with Bob Emmons who is kind of the pioneer of gratitude research at UC Davis, and the John Templeton Foundation came together, gosh, about five years ago to think about how they could try to get the insights that were being realized from scientific inquiry into gratitude into the hands of every person around the world. How can we, kind of, disrupt this usually long process of scientists studying something and writing about it in specialized journals and sort of its sitting around for a while until some clever journalist sort of says, oh Im going to explore this and write about it in a popular way. How could we kind of get in front of that and get this information out to people sooner and in a kind of more of directly applied way. And that conversation led to this project of expanding the science and practice of gratitude, which has a couple different facets to it. Originally it was a three year project, but now were into the second phase of it, which is another three years of effort and ideas. So the first three years was focused on catalyzing research, we had a great grant giving mechanism where we gave three point two million dollars out to faculty around the nation, and to graduate students around the country, and all of it was to try and spur and inspire, and support the value and potential impact of research on gratitude. We also had a focus on our sort of main bread and butter strength at the Greater Good, which is to write about and create media experiences that revolve around gratitude. So we wrote a lot of articles in collaboration with the experts who were studying gratitude and also the ones who had received funding as part of the project. We also hosted a, what we call the gratitude summit, where we invited people from all over the country to come and talk about, the leaders in the space, come and talk about the science of gratitude for a popular audience. In our second phase were really focused on the applied possibilities, and what I mean by that is were partnering with organizations in healthcare and education and business sectors to try to understand at a very practical level how can we sort of fold gratitude into the culture of these organizations. What needs to happen? For some its going to be this kind of scientific literature, sort of reading sophisticated science approach. For some its going to be just a very direct campaign of perhaps having an influential person, a photograph of them saying, I express gratitude everyday because its good for my blood pressure, right? Having something like that, that people can emphasize with and model after. So were really kind of exploring how can we take these insights that weve learned about the benefits of gratitude and sort of, infiltrate organizations so that they too end up with some of the benefits of having a more grateful community.

Raymond Hansell
Can you elaborate on some of the additional benefits that youve been picking up about gratitude?

Emiliana
Yeah, so theyre sort of three main categories of benefits. The first is sort of individually focused and has to do with health and what I call psychological wellbeing. So, and that was, the psychological wellbeing was the pioneering science of gratitude and what we learned from Bob Emmons and Bob Emmons early work was that, you know, being more grateful was associated with being more optimistic, was associated with being less vulnerable to stress and anxiety and depressive symptomology. In terms of health, more current research is showing that people who are more grateful, again, have lower blood pressure, or have a greater concentration of quote unquote healthy cholesterols and a lower concentration of the quote unquote bad cholesterols in their blood. Also show a better cardiovascular profile as indicated by the presence of what are called endothelial progenitor cells, which are these little things in the body that support our blood vessels so they can constrict and expand dynamically and adaptively over the lifespan. So theres these metrics within the body that are associated with longevity and health and decrease risk of adverse events, which seem to all go in the direction of physical health and resilience when people are more grateful. Or also when people undergo a gratitude practice or some kind of explicit activity, which is meant to build and strengthen gratitude. The second pillar of benefit has to do with interpersonal dynamics, right? Our relationships with close others, or the emergence of new relationships and friendships with other people and this work is really, in my mind, informed by this wonderful work at Emory University by Frans de Waal who is a primatologist. You might ask, well why is that interesting? Right? Because I think that theres a perception that gratitude is sort of like good manners, but if you want to argue that no, gratitude is something, is a state, is a psychological experience that weve evolved with for the very purpose of informing us about opportunities to connect and build trusting long term relationships with people. We ought to see these same kinds of patterns of behavior in our primate predecessors and in fact, thats exactly what Frans de Waals data confirms. So really, when we feel gratitude, its a signal for us to orient towards that person who has behaved in a manner that brings benefit to us, and to consider them as a valuable, trusting partner in community, or in any kind of cooperative endeavor. And I think most scientists today would agree that this idea of Darwins survival of the fittest being based on a definition of fitness that revolves around you know brawn and strength and you know, tooth and nail ability to exploit and harm others is actually pretty incorrect. In fact, Darwin didnt describe evolution that way, he described it as really hinging upon our ability and particularly for humans to cooperate and to care for vulnerable others and compassion and sympathy and love, were sort of first and foremost in his descriptions of the essence of human being. And by the way I also wanted to mention that theres this interesting newer study of how gratitude effects organizations or communities, and what its beginning to look like is when communities, you know, collectives of people have more gratitude, theres more gratitude between individuals working together or spending time together, there are emergent benefits to that entire community. Theres more kindness, theres more empathy, theres more productive teamwork and collaboration, and so theres real benefits both at the individual, the sort of close interpersonal, and in the collective in terms of the increasing or boosting the gratitude.

Raymond Hansell
So, with all these benefits, how is gratitude actually taken for granted at times?

Emiliana
Yeah, well, I think in a funny way, gratitude again, kind of got put into this category of being a kind of politeness or good manners, and that we can be grateful just by superficially saying thanks and nodding to people because of an obligation, right? Oh hey thanks, and not really thinking more deliberately about what it is the person did, or how much effort they put in to whatever it is that they did, and how it really benefits you. So, its almost like anything else that people dont deliberately focus upon becoming less prevalent in their psychological experience, or their outlook on the world. So if we dont think about that aspect of what, of the goodness that comes to us in life, like where its coming from, why it happens, and how other people have really played a role in it, those sort of thoughts, you know, they atrophy, right? If you never use a muscle in your body, the muscle atrophies. So we kind of have to be deliberate about maintaining our kind of strength of gratitude. Much like we have to be deliberate about reading and writing to sort of have the sophisticated vocabulary that we might hope to have as a human being. So as a little bit of an out of practice, and secondly a little bit of a, well this is just politeness and parents just have to teach it to their kids, rather than this idea that, no, no, no, no, this is the basic human experience that weve evolved with, that were born with, that we have to scaffold and sort of build from deliberate experience around.

Raymond Hansell
About Bob Emmons I think, and some of our other guests during this gratitude series talks about ingratitude or a sense of entitlement being just the opposite of this and how so often people fall into that particular type of thinking, and it informs their behavior in such a way that, you know, obviously people find it offensive. I think if you start almost from the perspective that youre entitled to nothing, and that therefore everything that comes to you somehow you can find a way to be grateful for it.

Emiliana
You know, I think thats a wonderful synthesis of these ideas and it really, it reminds me of one of the sort of essential habits that comes up when people think, well what kind of habit would you want to kind of develop in order to be a more grateful person? One of them is to constantly consider, reflect on how you really dont deserve anything, or how at some point things are going to go wrong, and that people are going to die and you yourself are going to die and theres going to be suffering and loss in life and to sort of think about that and realize that in this moment thats not happening to you. Right? In this moment I have terrific number of privileges and comforts and possessions and people who are surrounding me and making my comfort possible. So yeah I think that thats absolutely right to sort of reflect on how fortunate we are to have the kinds of comforts that we have is a way to sort of build up that gratitude muscle.

Raymond Hansell
Well thank you very much. We need to take a break right now. When we return well talk more with Doctor Simon-Thomas and my co-host MarySue Hansell. By the way in the spirit of the holiday season, our game on Facebook called A Better World is now one hundred percent free until the end of the year. Through January 1st the only currency accepted are acts of kindness and social good that actually you can do in game itself. Acts of kindness, which include by the way, expressing gratitude. Which so far, of the deeds expressed in the game, amounts to over half a million expressions of gratitude since weve launched this game some years back. Were challenging our players to perform one million good deeds total by the end of the year. And when they do A Better World will release funds to provide new coats for children in need nationwide through our partnership with Operation Warm. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to Better Worldians radio. Were speaking with Doctor Emiliana Simon-Thomas with the Greater Good Science Center. And now lets welcome back co-host MarySue Hansell and Doctor Simon-Thomas.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Emiliana.

Emiliana
Hi MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
You know the Greater Good Science Center covers gratitude from all angles, and your website has great resources for anyone hoping to learn more. Can we talk a little bit about the research. Id like to begin with one topic that is particularly important during this holiday season. How can gratitude help overcome materialism?

Emiliana
This is such an important question, I have to agree with you on that. And it does sort of emerge out of a question that we were discussing before the break, which is the relationship between gratitude and entitlement. Right? How does gratitude sort of combat these other risky sorts of mentalities, entitlement, materialism. So lets focus on materialism. For one, what gratitude does, is it involves the experience of savoring. Okay, so savoring what is good in a given moment for an individual is part of sort of deliberately practicing gratitude. So what is savoring doing for you? Well savoring something good, makes that something good last longer. And theres actually research on savoring, which reflects a change in how long the reward systems in the brain will remain active in people who have learned how to savor, versus people who have not. And so when we think about materialism, its often associated with what we call the hedonic treadmill. You get something good, you feel really happy about it quote unquote for some short period of time, but then it wears off and you adapt to it and its not so interesting anymore. Even thought that good thing still is an incredible privilege and more than many on this planet might have. So how do we combat that? Well we practice gratitude and savor that good thing for longer, we keep it as something positive for a long time so we dont have to suddenly start looking around for something else that will satisfy that void of wanting something good. So thats the first way that gratitude really gets in the way of materialism. And the second way is that gratitude often is, has a social tone to it, has an interpersonal feel and when we build relationships with our neighbors and friends and colleagues, that emphasize the common good, or the connection, or the sense of commonality between us, we are more likely to experience what you might call vicarious positive affect. And thats kind of a mouthful to say, basically it means I feel joy when my neighbor gets their house painted, even though mine is not, instead of feeling envy or feeling compelled to compare myself to them, because I have the sense of common humanity that emerges through a sense of gratitude thats shared between us. I feel joy in their success or in their privilege or in their acquisitions because Im happy with them, rather than, again feeling some sort of envy or comparison, or distancing that might also be something that could happen when another person gets something better than you. And those things, feeling that inclination to compare oneself is certainly also conducive of a more materialistic outlook.

MarySue Hansell
I guess that would prevent that keeping up with the Jones mentality that we see all the time.

Emiliana
Yeah, thats exactly right. I think gratitude, theres research thats showing that gratitude, Im thinking of Tom Gilovichs research on sort of purchasing things versus experiences, and whats unique about experiences is theyre often with other people. So, when we invest in experiences with other people we sort of strengthen our gratitude and we make our communities whats important, and our connections and memories of people more important, and that sort of just over, it casts light away from whats different about us and others and how our sort of acquisitions or possessions might be different from how we might want to, again, try keep up with the Jones. We are enjoying with the Jones what they have.

MarySue Hansell
There you go. You know, I wanted to talk a bit about the six habits of highly grateful people, I know you started mentioning one of them with Ray, about you know, loss and thinking about things you dont have.

Emiliana
Yeah, so we write these habits of various kinds of people by looking at a set of different studies that have all looked at different qualities that have been, that predict more gratitude, or that gratitude predicts would be more likely. And yeah, the first one is, its really reflecting on perhaps the possibility that things wouldnt be as comfortable as they are. And when we think about that it makes us, it sort of lowers our base line of expectation. Right? Our sense of entitlement. Wow I could have far less than this, and thus I should be really grateful for what it is that Ive got right now. Its definitely a way to think about gratitude more, being more readily. People who are more grateful tend to be more present in the current moment and they tend to look around the world and see whats happening, and the sort of common parliaments to quote unquote take time to smell the roses. Right? Theyre looking around at the world around them and noticing whats good in the world instead of what would be an alternative is to sort of ruminate on what might not have been good or might not be good coming in the next half of the day, which is often a habit that people sink into, a kind of self focused rumination, which has been associated with not doing well, with not feeling happy. And so again, people who are more grateful are doing less of that self focused rumination, worrying about whats not good, and doing more of the attunement to whats going on right around them and recognizing, noticing whats good around them. The third main habit, again, is sort of be deliberate about not being entitled, right? The things that I have are actually gifts, that I have the right to vote as a woman is a gift, right? Its not something Im born with as a human, but its because of, you know, the efforts and thoughtfulness of many people in history that I have this role in society that matters to me. And I mean, I just brought up a gratitude thats kind of about an existential concept. So sometimes people say, oh I cant think of anything to be grateful about, well you know, you know you really actually most of the time can. Right? There are so many things that if you just reflect on where you are right now and whats available to you theres a way to think about it that is this kind of gift mentality, not a righteous way. People who are more grateful tend to tie their gratitude to other people. Like there is always a way, I couldve said, oh Im grateful for my right to vote because thats so great that I have this and I live in a free society where, you know, theres been a movement to, you know, make opportunities available to all kinds of people equally. But instead, I thought, theyre people, theyre human beings, theyre many, many lives, many life hours that have been dedicated to making this possible for me. So when I really tie it to people, I tie it to human beings, that humanity builds this sense of connection and trust within the world, which is beneficial. Theres something about speaking really specifically thats important for gratitude. So I eluded to this earlier when I was talking about how people think about gratitude as a kind of mode of politeness or good manners that you just say, hey thanks, or you tell your children, if youre a parent, just say thank you. Without explaining, well why? Like what is it, what does that thank you actually reflecting or communicating, and when you instead of just doing the, hey thanks, you say, wow, you know, thank you for going out of your way to reschedule our meeting so that I could go to my kids play earlier this morning, you know, and enjoy that experience. I know you had other things you needed to do, but you went out of your way to do this so I could have this positive experience, I really appreciate that. So again, sort of focusing on exactly what the action was that a person did to help you, focusing on, acknowledging the effort that they put into it, and describing how it benefited you. These sort of deliberate, more thoughtful, in depth, kind of thoughts about goodness that was a result of another persons actions, are habits that grateful people usually have. And then lastly, and this is a little bit related to my earlier point about being, sort of extending your gratitude for all kinds of moments in a given day. You know, thinking for things that maybe dont immediately occur to you as a pleasure, right? Im grateful that I have a computer, right? There are people all over the world, and there was time in history where none of us had computers and as a result of this computer I can connect with people who are sort of my intellectual comrades very readily and quickly and I can learn about their work and I can keep up to date and do the job that I do, do the work that I do. And so again, sort of being thankful for things beyond what you might normally think of as benefits in your life is a habit of grateful people. You might say, thinking outside of the box, not just thinking of the things that feel immediately pleasurable.

MarySue Hansell
Yes, you know, we talked last week with Doctor Emmons about the gratitude journal, and it sounds like your discussion here is very applicable to that, these are all kinds of things you can put in that journal.

Emiliana
Thats absolutely right and you know, originally when Bob did that work he wasnt that deliberate about specifying the detail or the components of a rich and full expression of gratitude. And nowadays I think the research suggests that it is valuable, again, it is valuable to when you express gratitude to go through the more detailed thought process of thinking about again, what is it, what thing or experience or construct are you really grateful for and how does it benefit you, and if you can, how is it that another persons efforts and you know, lifes passion has made this possible for you. For example, say youre grateful for a really uplifting experience in nature. Right? We can think oh thank nature, and that could be the end of it, or we could think, wow its because of, you know, certain people who advocated in city planning or environmental justice that this natural space is available to me and that Ive gotten the opportunity to enjoy it and I really have to acknowledge and appreciate the effort that those individuals, even though I dont know who they are, theyre humans, and recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating them, builds my sense of common humanity in the world.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, I think it makes you feel better and appreciate the process more when you do go into those specifics.

Emiliana
Exactly.

MarySue Hansell
I wanted to ask you about the myths about gratitude, what do people think gratitude is and why arent they doing it?

Emiliana
Well, so weve covered some of the myths already and one of the myths is gratitude is this kind of mechanism of politeness. Right? Its just this thing that your teachers and parents tell you to do, and you do it out of obligation just so you dont offend anyone. And again, the myth, that myth is largely dispelled both by the fact that gratitude becoming a more grateful person at a dispositional level, not just being someone who says thanks all the time, but someone who thinks about the world in a grateful way. Since it predicts all of these other sort of benefits to health, wellbeing, relationships, community, it doesnt make sense that it would just be this little sort of superficial politeness thing, rather, it is something more basic and instrumental to who we are, and it is there as a way that evolution has provided information to us about our social interactions and our social opportunities. So that myth is largely dispelled. You know there are some myths about gratitude and perhaps you can be overly thankful or you can be superficially thankful, and for the most part theres perhaps some controversy about whether you can be overly thankful. Certainly if someone is thankful to an individual who is harming them, thats not necessarily a service. But if someone thinks about an adverse experience in the past, through a lens of gratitude, this is been shown to reduce their sort of post traumatic anxiety and stress. So again, its not that gratitude has kind of a limited scope, but that there are, like anything else, you know, if you eat a vitamin thats good for you in massive quantities in every context, perhaps thats not going to be so good for you. But for the most part, gratitude is something thats useful and beneficial for individuals to develop. You know, I dont have any other myths to be fair.

MarySue Hansell
There we go.

Emiliana
Yeah.

MarySue Hansell
You know what, you do have some great research on how gratitude can actually help couples get through tough times. I thought, especially with this time of year, can you talk about that?

Emiliana
Yeah, so Sarah Algos is a pioneer in this space and shes done wonderful studies showing when couples express gratitude towards one another, theyre just simply more satisfied, theyre relationships last longer, theyre less vulnerable to enduring hostile conflict, they get through difficulties more quickly and they sort of arrive at what you, some kind of learning consequence more readily than people who are less amenable or just less in the habit of both feeling and expressing gratitude. So the data is just pervasive, what Sarah has also shown is that couples that express gratitude more readily and share gratitude with one another engage systems in the body that speak in the language of oxytocin. And oxytocin is a neuropeptide that we know is involved in trust and social pleasure and a sense of connection with others, a sense of generosity and empathy. And so again, as people are expressing and experiencing gratitude more towards their romantic partners, theyre feeling more of those states that I think really comprise the quality of interpersonal relationships.

MarySue Hansell
Right. You know I saw some YouTube videos on your site which I recommend all the people to definitely look into your site because theres so much valuable information, but the ones I was talking about was about fostering gratitude in kids. And you started mentioning about materialism earlier in our conversation, so could you tell us how that all ties in together?

Emiliana
Yeah, so gratitude in youth is a really important question, and it really relates to this idea that parents would benefit from not thinking about gratitude as a measure of good manners or politeness. But rather parents should really think about gratitude and model gratitude in this richer, savoring, appreciative, acknowledging way. And Ill unpack that. If you want kids to understand gratitude as something in a more essential and richly connected to their experience day in and day out, and not just an obligatory thing, its helpful to give them that background, both, you know, to model it, right? So as a teacher or a parent when you say thank you to your own children, or when you say thank you to other people, make sure that you explain why it is youre saying thank you. And by that I dont mean, oh I say thank you because its the nice thing to do, but rather Im saying thank you, or thank you to this person describing what it is that they did, acknowledging the effort that they put into it, and explaining how it benefited me. So thank you so much for loaning me your eraser during seventh period, I know that you had to kind of go into your bag and rifle through it and try to find it, even though you were trying to get your own work done, and it made a big difference because I was able to do better work as a consequence of having that eraser from you. And again, its a very small deed and one that normally be met with, hey thanks, right? Because thats what youre obliged to say, but instead now we model this savoring of the fact that this was something that benefited me, acknowledging the other persons effort that went into it, and describing the action itself, like being really clear that I understand what it is that you did. So for kids, its kind of the same thing, right? We need to explain, orient them to the experience, notice what the other person did and explain, describe it, acknowledge the cost they put into it and really I think one thing thats a little bit different is, that comes up with youth is, reflecting on the good intentions that the other person had when they were doing this thing. So, not just thinking that the other person was sort of an automaton that was doing this again, out of obligation, but rather they were thinking, oh I want to help, I want to do something for you. And that feeling that somebody else did this because they wanted to do something nice for me is a really rich, and interesting sort of cognitive habit or social emotional habit. I think of this other person as someone who wants to do something good for me, right? So this is how kids start to really digest and sort of personalize gratitude as something instrumental to who they are and how they function in their social milieu.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, I think its a great way to build good habits in kids. Then well have really grateful adults when they get older.

Emiliana
Yeah, exactly. I mean theres, its sort of like a no, a double win situation if parents decide, hey Im just going to try and be more deliberate and rich in my expressions of gratitude and when I do it, hopefully my kids will see it every once and a while, it works for the parents, it works for the kids, everybody wins.

MarySue Hansell
Lastly, I wanted to ask you, how do you believe gratitude can make the world a better place?

Emiliana
I think gratitude can make the better place first and foremost by building our sense of common humanity as a species. You know, we know right now, and maybe this first and foremost is reflective of whats happening in the world right now in terms of strife and disagreement and you know, radicalized sentiments around righteousness and indifference, right? The idea that people are so different and different in such strong ways that some deserve to live and others dont is something thats very painful for all of us to live with day in and day out and you know, I dont mean to be over simplified and suggest gratitude is a panacea, but part of me does believe that if there was more opportunity, there were more opportunities for people across cultures to recognize and favor the gratitude. And some of this is going to require behavior, right? To do things that will actually illicit gratitude from cultures who perhaps are frustrated because of their degree of comfort and access to resources in the world. So you know, I do hope that if gratitude is kind of a bigger force in the world that its practice will lead to, I hate to say it, world peace. Because people will recognize common humanity and then feel disinclined towards aggression and violence towards one another. At a public health level, of course, gratitude has all these, all of, tremendous potential to alleviate some of the major challenges that we face in terms of depression, anxiety, and again, interpersonal strife and cardiovascular and immune consequences of those experiences and states. So, I think gratitude has great potential.

Raymond Hansell
Well there you heard it, thats probably one of the most profound reaches that weve heard when we ask that question is, we like that to result in world peace, that would be phenomenal and I think thats a noble goal for any specific virtue. If anybody, if anyone of them can reach it, I think gratitude will make that happen. Doctor Simon-Thomas, wed like to thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Emiliana
Thank you so much it was a pleasure and a privilege.

Raymond Hansell
Oh youre very welcome, our privilege as well. You can learn more about the Greater Good Science Center by going to Greater Good dot Berkley dot edu. As we end our show we like to share our BetterWorldians mission. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. And so until next time, be a BetterWorldian.