Gratitude in times of crisis


Gratitude is an emotion that arises when people realize that they have received something from someone else they needed. In this crisis, we see how hard the health care people, among others, are working to manage the influx of critically ill and contagious people, even at the risk of becoming ill themselves. We now collectively realize that our society urgently needs these people and their expertise in caring for ourselves and our loved ones.

Expressing gratitude

Many people in our society would like to express their gratitude. We want to let the other know that their commitment, their sacrifice, is appreciated. For example, last Tuesday in the Netherlands, we massively clapped for our people in healthcare. That is a very creative way to show gratitude. It is in our nature to show our appreciation in a creative way. This also applies to the gardeners who now have beautiful flowers that are not going to the Vatican and that they would otherwise have to throw away. How nice is it if you can make other people happy to show your appreciation for their efforts?


How come we suddenly see so much gratitude in our society? Gratitude, like all other emotions, is contagious. When we see someone happy or sad, our mirror neurons ensure that we experience the same emotion. Because someone else expresses gratitude for the people in health care, other people also realize that these people give our society something that we really need. As a result, gratitude spreads like ripples in the water in our society.


So, if we feel grateful for someone who has done something for us, we would like to give something back. Gratitude motivates and activates. We want to do something for the person who helped us, but that does not necessarily have to be aimed at this particular person. When we feel gratitude, it is also possible that we want to do something for someone completely different. We see that people in health care work hard and then therefore there are people who want to look after their children. But we also see other initiatives to support people at risk of being ignored, just as the people in health care support our sick.


Let’s continue with these great actions! Let gratitude flow through our society through beautiful initiatives for appreciation and support for those people who need it most now. And once again from me, many thanks to everyone who is helping to keep our society running in this time of crisis. If you find stories about gratitude inspiring, my book (in Dutch) can be ordered until April 6 with a discount AND signature through my website

Deel dit bericht!

Five Insights on Gratitude

Mark Travers PhD distilled five insights about gratitude and health and published them on Psychology Today:

  1. Gratitude facilitates social well-being
  2. Gratitude is associated with higher levels of social well-being
  3. Grateful people are less likely to exhibit psychopathology
  4. Not all gratitude interventions are successful
  5. Gratitude may have modest beneficial effects on physical health and bodily functions

We thank Mark Travers for putting our research in the spotlight! You can read the full Psychology Today blogpost on their website. 

Deel dit bericht!

Gratitude and loneliness

In a news post of the Open University Netherlands, dr. Lilian Jans-Beken was briefly mentioned. We asked dr. Lilian Jans-Beken how this article came about. 

At the time that I was an assistant professor in Lifespan Psychology at the Open University Netherlands, I mentored student Esther Frinking with her master’s thesis on the association between gratitude, psychological flexibility, engaged living, and loneliness. The results we found were very interesting, so I suggested to her and the Lifespan Psychology department to submit it in an adapted form for publication in a scientific journal. Everyone agreed on this proposal and I guided her through this writing and submitting proces. The colleagues from the Lifespan Psychology department helped with the final submission phase. The article Gratitude and loneliness in adults over 40 years: examining the role of psychological flexibility and engaged living has now been published in Aging & Mental Health. Esther and I are very proud of our accomplishment! We are grateful for the opportunity and the help we have received.

Deel dit bericht!

5 Ways to Practise Gratitude

While Thanksgiving is, in part, about eating our body weight in turkey and mashed potatoes, it’s also about giving thanks. In mark of the occasion, we ask Dr Lilian Jans-Beken, an expert in the field of gratitude, to share with us five ways we can practice giving thanks — not just on 28 November, but each and every day.

Why is it important? ‘Gratitude is associated with improving one’s mental health because of the tendency to look for good in all kinds of situations, including adversity, which strengthens our resilience,’ explains Dr Jans-Beken. ‘Through the reciprocity of gratitude, we also become more connected to people around us, and science shows that social support is very important to attain and maintain overall well-being.’

So what are Dr Jans-Beken’s top five ways?

1. The gratitude bracelet

‘If you want to start with feeling grateful more often, you have to make sure that you’re reminded of your intention regularly. You can do this by wearing a bracelet with large beads or a pendant that gets in your way during the day. Every time you feel the bracelet, you can remind yourself to be grateful for something at that time.’

2. The gratitude journal

‘This is the best-known method. Write down three to five things every day that you were grateful for that day, even when your day didn’t go well. And don’t only write down what you’re grateful for but also why you’re grateful for it. You can do this at any time of the day, in the morning or at night, whenever suits your schedule best.’

3. The gratitude letter

‘Is there someone in your life that was or is important in what you’ve achieved? Don’t wait until their funeral to thank them — do it here and now! Write them a letter and let them know that you’re grateful for them, or, even better, read the letter out loud to them. This will guarantee a boost in happiness.’

4. The gratitude wall

‘This is a technique for families, friends or teams. Take a designated piece of wall in your house, the gym or the office, and make post-it notes and pens available. Have everyone write down their gratitudes, put them on the wall and leave them there. Everyone is allowed to keep adding notes and grow the gratitude wall in this way.’

5. Not ‘sorry’ but ’thank you’

‘We do tend to say “sorry” quite a lot, but think about it for a minute; sorry is all about yourself and what you’ve done wrong. For example, we say “sorry I’m late” when we don’t arrive at the agreed time. Instead, try saying “thank you for waiting” and make it about the other person. This makes a shift in the atmosphere immediately because of the appreciation of the other.’

(This blog post was featured previously on The Style Sheet)

Deel dit bericht!

Featured member INMP

Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken from the THSC is presented as a featured member of the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM) in October 2019. The INPM aims to advance the vision of Dr. Viktor Frankl and Dr. Paul T. P. Wong through research, education, and practice. 

The article about the featured member reports on dr. Lilian’s career and her research on existential gratitude. You can read the article through the website of the INPM. 

Deel dit bericht!