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What is Gratitude?

The month for heightened gratitude—and the American holiday for which giving thanks is paramount—is upon us. New studies show that cultivating a feeling of gratitude when considering gifts and good fortune has been linked to better health and a general feeling of well being. But what is gratitude? Is gratitude an impulse hardwired in human nature? Is it a virtue or is it a practice? How does gratitude affect everything from the brain and the spirit, to the economy and the culture at large?

To get answers, Insight asked Smith professors from a range of disciplines to consider this question. What follows are their own essays describing how their scholarship informs the concept of gratitude.

Also: This month, an exhibition in the Smith Campus Center highlights the power of gratitude in an exhibition on view through November 29. The exhibit, “What Makes You Grateful?” features the work of artist Diana Lyn Cote and a selection of postcards that Anne Kubitsky ’05 has collected from around the globe offering ideas of gratitude.