The Science of Gratitude: How Praise Builds Strong Communities

Did you know that expressing gratitude and receiving praise can have a profound impact on your mental and physical well-being, as well as on the communities around you? In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind gratitude and praise, and how these simple acts can enhance your mood, improve your relationships, and even change your brain. We'll also show you how to use praise to build stronger, more inclusive communities with the power of technology.

Gratitude is more than a social construct; it has deep roots embedded in our evolutionary history, brains, and DNA. Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough define gratitude as "recognising that one has obtained a positive outcome and acknowledging the source of this positive outcome." In other words, gratitude is a gesture or group of kind words we give or receive from others as a result of our effort or positive impact.

These simple exchanges of thankfulness have significant biological and social impacts. At the molecular level, expressing and receiving gratitude is associated with the neuropeptide oxytocin and with the release of dopamine and serotonin. These cerebral networks and neurotransmitters are responsible for enhanced mood, willpower, and motivation. Expressing gratitude can also enhance self-love, empathy, and interpersonal relationships, and significantly impact body functions and psychological conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression. (Frontiers in Psychology)

Gratitude and Mental Health

In a study conducted by the Greater Good Science Center, 300 college students who sought mental health counseling because they struggled with issues related to depression and anxiety were randomly assigned to three groups. The first group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, while the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity. The results after 12 weeks showed that the participants who wrote gratitude letters had significantly improved mental health compared to those who wrote about negative experiences or did not write anything at all. Three months later, the group that wrote gratitude letters had greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude, demonstrating the lasting effects of gratitude on the brain.

Gratitude and Pro-Social Behaviours

Gratitude also influences how others respond and behave. Several studies have demonstrated the impact of gratitude on individual relationships and within communities. In one study, 69 college students were given other students' cover letters to review. Some participants were thanked, while others were not. Those who were thanked were significantly more likely to assist the student with another cover letter or a different student with a cover letter than those who were not thanked. In addition, a field experiment discovered that fundraisers who received an expression of gratitude from their director increased the number of donor solicitation calls they made. (Grant & Gino, 2010).

This study found that the effect of gratitude expression on prosocial behavior could be explained by increased feelings of social worth. In other words, the authors say, "Gratitude expressions increase prosocial behavior by enabling individuals to feel socially valued."

How Praise leverages gratitude to build strong communities

Praise is a powerful tool for building strong communities. Everyone desires to feel valued; it is one of our fundamental human needs. When we use praise and gratitude to acknowledge and appreciate the effort and positive impact of others, we increase feelings of social worth, which leads to increased prosocial behavior. As a result, individuals are more likely to engage in and contribute to communal activities, resulting in stronger and more vibrant communities.

At Praise, we believe in the power of communities to drive change and create meaningful impact. Our mission is to empower communities and help them become more intelligent, productive, and inclusive. With our tools, members can easily acknowledge each other's contributions, generating a contribution graph that can be used to build community intelligence, establish reputation, and reward those who make the greatest impact.

Praise is open source and available now at

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