Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Kindness and gratitude

Kindness and gratitude
What is the emotional role of kindness and gratitude?


Figure 1. A kindness is everything sign.

This chapter discusses kindness and gratitude and how these two factors can impact/benefit individuals. The systematic study of gratitude within psychology began in 1998 when Martin Seligman introduced a new positive psychology theory. The new theory allowed for understanding experiences of gratitude, state gratitude, individual differences and the therapeutic benefits of gratitude. The word kindness can be backdated to 1300, a part of a personality trait and many researchers have investigated what kindness is, its benefits and how it interplays with pro-sociality. The chapter begins with the definitions of kindness and gratitude. Furthermore, the current research that has been conducted and the findings[grammar?]. Lastly, how individuals can benefit from having kindness and gratitude and their positive psychological effects[grammar?].

This book chapter aims to gain a better insight and understanding of how individuals can benefit from kindness and gratitude in their lives; studies suggest beneficial and psychological attributions to our well-being in many aspects.


[Provide more detail]

What is kindness?Edit

Kindness can be interpreted as showing kindness {{ic|tautological]] by being understanding towards other individuals who are suffering instead of being critical or indifferent towards others (Cheng et al., 2022). Another [what?] suggests that kindness is a combination of emotional, behavioural, and motivational components and consisting of behaviour that benefit other individuals or to make others’ happy (Cheng et al., 2022). Kindness can also be associated as the “selfless acts performed by a person wishing to either help or positively affect the emotional state (mood) of another person” (Cheng et al., 2022). The following definitions describe that kindness is an action that is intended for others’ benefits. For instances [grammar?] Cotney and Banerjee (2017) defined kindness that is driven by compassion or concern that is expressed by doing favours, good deeds, or caregiving. A voluntary act that benefits others but is not motivated by external rewards or punishments instances (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017).

What is gratitude?Edit

There are a few different ways gratitude can be defined [grammar?]for example, gratitude can be defined as both a positive effect from the perception of receiving a benefit from another person and the ability to appreciate the simple things in life and expressing gratitude towards others (Bohlmeijer et al., 2020). Shiraki and Igarashi (2018) define gratitude as a “positive emotional reaction to the receipt of a benefit that is perceived to have resulted from the good intentions of another”. Another suggests that gratitude can be described as a result when an individual receives kindness from another individual, [grammar?] this entails enacting kind behaviours towards other individuals, which promotes feelings of gratitude and impacts a trigger of kind actions influencing reciprocity and behavioural contagion (Otake et al., 2006; Cotney & Banerjee 2017).

Current research and findingsEdit

Kindness and gratitude have sparked the interest of psychologists and researchers, although there has not been much research conducted in the area of adolescents. Previous studies have documented the importance of kindness and gratitude for overall well-being (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017). Cotney and Banerjee (2017) conducted a study with 11-15-year-old adolescents to explore representations of kindness in four main categories: the behavioural forms of kindness, the antecedents of kindness, outcomes of kindness, and social and psychological factors that influence these processes. The adolescents were split into two groups and asked to write down words they could use to describe kindness and themes of kind acts and examples. The findings showed that kindness is defined as a prosocial act driven by placing someone else's needs before one's own.

Furthermore, kindness is preceded by an underlying motivation or psychological goal; the giver receives beneficial outcomes and positive effects on well-being. Although researchers found relationships with an adverse history, feelings of kindness and gratitude will be in short supply and create a barrier for future kindness (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017). The importance of the link and interplay of motivation and behaviour cannot be severed because kindness is kindness because of the interplay between the act and the goal that drives it. It is possible to act kindly but not be kind, which is ultimately the rejection of prosocial acts and is only driven by self-interest (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017).

Similarly, Froiland (2018) conducted a study in a university to examine the effects of a semester-long positive psychology course on 26 students' gratitude towards studying and whether the students improved. The course included positive psychology aspects of gratitude, kindness, mindfulness, and intrinsic life and learning goals. The interventions included gratitude journals, letters, acts of kindness, and intrinsic life and learning goals. It is discussed that each of these interventions has promoted positive emotions towards learning and well-being and that gratitude is the key because it provides a powerful pathway towards happiness (Froiland, 2018). The findings concluded that providing students with a positive psychology course can promote students to feel significantly more gratitude, positive emotions towards studying and intrinsic motivations significantly improved, which is essential for students to dedicate long hours to studying. Whereas, without interventions for positive psychology, students experience declines in phycological[spelling?] well-being towards the end of the semester. Students who attended class regularly encouraged their intrinsic motivations to attend and gain a greater sense of positive psychological well-being (Froiland, 2018)[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Another study by Bohlmeijer et al. (2020) designed 6-week gratitude and self-kindness intervention for people with low to moderate well-being and moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety and a 6-month follow-up[grammar?]. Mental health has been declining in many individuals and impacting peoples'[grammar?] psychological well-being. However, gratitude and kindness interventions can result in a positive outcome for struggling individuals (Kerr et al., 2015; Bohlmeijer et al., 2020). The interventions consisted of 6-week gratitude exercises such as diary keeping, and the participants in the control condition group were asked to perform five self-kindness activities one day per week. The findings concluded that gratitude and kindness interventions were most effective for improving well-being; symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression diminished. Interestingly, the findings of the effects of the appreciation of simple pleasures were sustained at the 6-month follow-up; the effects of practising gratitude and kindness had a sustainable impact on mental well-being.

The psychological effects and benefits of kindness and gratitudeEdit

Figure 2. Photo of a young child expressing thankfulness.

There is a profound positive and beneficial psychological effect of kindness and gratitude on individuals. Cotney and Banerjee (2017) identified numerous benefits to well-being from having kindness. For example, the giver participants reported they had improved self-confidence, sense of competence, improved relationships and happiness from showing others kindness. Another benefit has suggested that the giver's life experience is considered an essential factor as the giver is better able to show empathy and be more motivated to help because they have experienced similar needs of the recipient (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017). In addition, positive life experiences can motivate one to pay it forward, passing on kindness to others. Froiland (2018) discussed the benefits of having students undertake positive psychology classes to enhance their kindness, well-being, gratitude, etc. The students that attended the sessions experienced more substantial growth in gratitude and positive emotions towards studying, which improved their well-being and their mental state of studying.

Bohlmeijer et al. (2020) mentioned that we often forget to be kind to ourselves as individuals. Individuals should allow for treats and to be grateful; promoting self-kindness to ourselves and being grateful has shown promising effects of reducing anxiety, depression and stress on our mental health and improving our relationships with others. Therefore, because individuals have the basic fundamental human need for relatedness to others (self-determination theory), individuals who receive kindness tend to feel gratitude, act prosocial toward another person, and pay kindness to another individual. This benefits individuals psychologically, promotes connection to others and promotes forgiveness and happiness (Shiraki & Igarashi, 2018; Cotney & Banerjee, 2017).

An important finding by Otake et al. (2006) discussed that kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. Furthermore, counting acts of kindness has shown that individuals become happier and more grateful. This stresses the importance of kindness and how gratitude is a human strength that influences subjective well-being, social networking, optimism, sense of identity and goal orientation (Otake et al., 2006). Lastly, being kind reduces avoidance goals from socially anxious individuals. It is said that engaging in acts of kindness effectively reduces social anxiety (Trew & Alden, 2015). Kindness improves an individual's psychological well-being and encourages individuals with social anxiety to have relationships with others and overcome social avoidance, which will help lead a more satisfying and engaging life (Trew & Alden, 2015).

Case studyEdit

Case study: Causton & MacLeod (2020).

A teacher named Kate from a university decided to create the “21 days of Kindness Challenge” with her freshman seminar class. Which incorporated that students were to document their kind acts to create a kinder culture and more inclusive campus[grammar?]. The students created the campaign through social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). For 21 days, students recorded and documented themselves completing kind acts and sharing their kind acts on social media to encourage more students across the campus to participant. The results were astonishing, students were leaving notes for strangers, professors and friends in various places, such as cars, dorm doors and office doors. Students hung inspiring quotes in the hallways, giving flowers to other individuals walking past, cooked dinner for friends and families, purchasing coffee for students studying in the library and shovelled snow for their neighbours. The results were impressive. Kate’s students found out that not only did they feel better about themselves after being kind and spreading kindness and gratitude, but the students felt more successful. Kates[grammar?] students also saw a large effect they had on other students and the faculty who began implementing their own acts of kindness to others.

Future researchEdit

Future research would benefit from having larger studies involving a range of different adolescences[spelling?] from different youth groups and cultural backgrounds to allow researchers to see whether conceptions of kindness differ across age-groups and different cultures (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017). Future research should take into consideration that further qualitative investigation should look into specific kindnesses that young adolescences[spelling?] engage with, because understanding does not reflect the capacity to act (Cotney & Banerjee, 2017). Another suggestion for future research is to examine the long-term effects of positive psychology courses on students as they continue through their education and transition into the workforce Froiland (2018). It should also be examined in future studies how gratitude expands social networks in a ecological valid situation (Shiraki & Igarashi 2018).


1 An individual that has a high significance of kindness and gratitude is seen as a person who would have high levels of psychological well-being?[awkward expression?]


2 Kindess[spelling?] negatively impacts individuals well-being?


3 Is it possible to have kindness without gratitude?[explain?]



Kindness and gratitude are complex concepts that have attracted researchers' and psychologists' interest, although numerous factors still need to be researched on kindness and gratitude[vague]. Kindness and gratitude can benefit our well-being and the psychological effects. People who practice kindness and gratitude experience better well-being, happiness, optimism, health, motivation, reduced stress, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, students also benefit from kindness and gratitude interventions as they promote better mental health, intrinsic motivation and study patterns. However, future studies should investigate how kindness and gratitude impact different cultural backgrounds to see whether kindness and gratitude meanings differ.

See alsoEdit


Bohlmeijer, E.T., Kraiss, J.T., Watkins, P. (2020). Promoting Gratitude as a Resource for Sustainable Mental Health: Results of a 3-Armed Randomized Controlled Trial up to 6 Months Follow-up. J Happiness Stud 22(3), 1011–1032.

Causton, J., & MacLeod, K. (2020). From behaving to belonging: The inclusive art of supporting students who challenge us. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Cheng, Ming & Adekola, Olalekan. (2022). Promoting acts of kindness on campus: Views of Chinese international students in the UK. Intercultural Communication Education, 5(1), 17-32.

Cotney, L, J., & Banerjee, R. (2017). Adolescents’ Conceptualizations of Kindness and its Links with Well-being: A Focus Group Study. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(2), 599–617.

Froiland, M, J. (2018). Promoting gratitude and positive feelings about learning among young adults. Journal of Adult Development, 25(1), 251–258.

Kerr, S. L., O'Donovan, A., & Pepping, C. A. (2015). Can gratitude and kindness interventions enhance well-being in a clinical sample? Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being, 16(1), 17–36.

Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J. (2006). Happy People Become Happier through Kindness: A Counting Kindnesses Intervention. J Happiness Stud 7(3), 361–375.

Shiraki, Y., & Igarashi, T. (2018). “Paying it forward” via satisfying a basic human need: The need for relatedness satisfaction mediates gratitude and prosocial behavior. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 21(1-2), 107–113.

Trew, J, L., Alden, L, E. (2015). Kindness reduces avoidance goals in socially anxious individuals. Motiv Emot 39(6), 892–907.

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