Associate Professor, who teaches Psychology at George Mason University, has found that gratitude–the emotion of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift–is the best way to achieve happiness.
Through a number of studies he has conducted, Kashdan has learnt that gender plays a role when it comes to achieving well-being, and that men are much less likely to feel and express gratitude than women.
“Previous studies on gratitude have suggested that there might be a difference in gender, and so we wanted to explore this further–and find out why. Even if it is a small effect, it could make a huge difference in the long run,” says Kashdan.
In one of the studies, his team asked college students and older adults to describe and evaluate a recent episode in which they received a gift. Kashdan says that women reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts, compared with men. He also found that older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift giver was another man.
“The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults. Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being,” he says.
According to Kashdan, the three elements that are essential for creating happiness and meaning in life would be meaningful relationships, gratitude, and living in the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity. A research article about Kashdan’s findings has been published in the online edition of the Journal of Personality.