Counting Your Blessings

In 2011 Fordham University sociologist Costas Panagopoulos published a study concerning three U.S. elections in which he found that voters who were sent a postcard thanking them for voting in the last election were significantly more likely to vote in the next election than were those who were sent a postcard simply encouraging them to vote. This effect was surprisingly strong, and it successfully mobilized a diverse range of voters.

Whether one finds oneself on the giving or the receiving end, there is something undeniably compelling about gratitude. Over the past decade researchers like Panagopoulos and hundreds of others have published studies looking at the nature of gratitude, how we might cultivate it, and what effects that cultivation might have.

Throughout history and around the world, religious leaders and philosophers have extolled the virtue of gratitude. Some have even described gratitude as “social glue” that fortifies relationships—between friends, family, and romantic partners—and serves as the backbone of human society.

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