Need a boost in your romantic relationship? A dose of gratitude may do the trick, according to Dr. Sara Algoe of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gratitude is an emotion experienced in acknowledgement of an intentionally provided benefit, especially if the benefit is perceived as personally important and responsive to one’s needs and preferences. It is thought that gratitude enhances social relationships by broadening our attention to people who care about our welfare. In fact, early research on gratitude1 has shown that compared to happiness, gratitude made people recall more positive qualities of a benefactor, feel closer to the benefactor, and desire to spend more time with that person in the future.
On the flip side of gratitude lurks indebtedness, the feeling of obligation to repay someone for a benefit that he or he has provided. While an individual may experience either gratitude or indebtedness after having received a benefit, only gratitude is associated with positive emotions; in fact, indebtedness is linked to negative emotions such as guilt. Indebtedness drives people to resolve a debt in order to feel better but unlike gratitude, does not facilitate communal relationships.