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Growth of Gratitude in Times of Trouble: Gratitude in the Pandemic

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Abstract

We surveyed how people experience gratitude within the unique challenges offered by the pandemic. Moreover, this was the first study to investigate future gratitude: how grateful people expect to be in the future.
... Gratitude is associated with deliberate rumination (Chun & Lee, 2013;Kim & Bae, 2019) which subsequently encourages positive reappraisals of traumatic situations (Cárdenas Castro et al., 2019). Interestingly, Watkins et al. (2021) highlighted gratitude to be the positive emotion that was most experienced during the pandemic, compared with happiness, hope, relief, and joy, highlighting a critical role for gratitude-and opportunities for promoting itduring a time of great suffering. Importantly, gratitude interventions, such as the three good things exercise (Lai, 2017), have been shown to increase levels of gratitude, providing opportunities to promote sustainable wellbeing (Bohlmeijer et al., 2021), and facilitate PTG during times of trauma. ...
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COVID-19 presented a major societal challenge including threat to life, bereavement, self-isolation, loss of income and significant psychological distress. Yet, it is possible that such suffering may also lead to post-traumatic growth (PTG) and subsequent wellbeing. The current study aimed to investigate the contributors to PTG and whether PTG mediated their relationship with wellbeing, measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale. In a cross-sectional sample of 136 participants (mean age = 30.52; SD = 13.80), a hierarchical regression and mediation analysis was conducted, focusing on physical activity, gratitude, tragic optimism, social support, and nature connection, guided by our recently published ‘GENIAL’ framework (Mead, Fisher, & Kemp, 2021). The regression analysis highlighted that our variables predicted up to 18% of the variance in PTG, whilst controlling for age, gender and subjective social status, with gratitude and nature connection being key predictors – indicating the importance of these factors over and above previously reported contributors to PTG, such as social support. Our findings provide new evidence on the drivers of PTG and raise important questions concerning the relationship between the related constructs of PTG and wellbeing. Limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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