Not only does stress reap a toll on our mental and physical health, it also impacts our emotions. For example, stress can limit our ability to experience gratitude.

In this brief interview segment, Megan McDonough, CEO of Wholebeing Institute, and Dr. Sara Algoe, Director of the Emotions and Social Interactions in Relationships Lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, talk about how stress blocks gratitude and how we can change that.

You can watch more interviews with leading positive psychology experts here or learn more about creating wholebeing happiness here.


MM: Do you think some people can identify gratitude more easily than others?

SA: I do, yeah. So people’s stress, for example, really gets in the way of noticing what other people do for us. I’m sure that everybody has had this experience (and those people who haven’t had this experience are probably just living on a higher plane of existence) but, you know, we get stressed and stress really narrows our scope of vision, and so we kind of can walk around in this self-focused world where we’re not really paying attention to the things that other people do for us and so forth. One way that’s really obvious is if people do kind of deploy their attention a little bit differently and start to notice the things that other people do for them, they might be more likely to experience gratitude when people do nice things, that’s one thing. There’s also this really interesting scale of dispositional experiences of gratitude that is very widely studied and some people do self-report that they experience more gratitude than other people, and those people who say that they experience more gratitude end up seeming to reap greater benefits from having that experience. We haven’t gotten too far into the research on who’s more likely to experience gratitude, but the things that we do know about what happens when you do experience gratitude lead me to think that it’s really important research to think through, kind of, how do we get people to experience more gratitude naturally in their everyday lives.