Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude


Digital Gratitude Journal: Thnx4.org


What does it mean to give thanks? And do we say “thank you” enough?

That’s what UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center is trying to find out with its interactive, shareable gratitude journal called Thnx4.org, which launched on November 1, 2012. It’s part of a $5.6 million, three-year project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Thnx4.org is currently on hiatus while we make improvements, but we plan to re-launch the site in Summer 2014.

Thnx4.org represents a unique cross-disciplinary collaboration. It was conceived by GGSC editor-in-chief Jason Marsh. His colleagues Jeremy Adam Smith, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, and Dacher Keltner worked with UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, the design and development company Quilted, and game designer Chelsea Howe—one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business 2012”—to develop Thnx4.org.

For individual users, Thnx4.org provides a guided two-week exercise designed by experts to make gratitude a daily practice. Every day, users get tips on enhancing gratitude and are able to keep a private journal and say “thnx” publicly through Facebook, Twitter, or email. In the end, they find out how 14 days of gratitude awareness affected their mood and health—and they are able to read expressions of gratitude from other people in their community.

After they complete the two-week Gratitude Challenge, they’ll be able to keep using Thnx4.org to capture moments of thankfulness and find out what makes their community feel grateful.

For scientists, it provides a source of research data that will be used to study the causes, effects, and meaning of gratitude. Researchers will be able to explore questions such as:

  • Does a moment of thankfulness statistically predict the likelihood of a pay-it-forward response?
  • Which gender is more likely to spread gratitude? Do men tend to feel grateful for different things than women?
  • Does gratitude practice have any discernible racial, ethnic, or regional variations?
  • Does expressing gratitude toward people of different races affect prejudice?
  • Does gratitude mitigate the effect of burnout in health care settings?
  • Does there tend to be an ebb and flow of gratitude over our lifetimes?

Thnx4.org launched on November 1 with the “Cal Gratitude Challenge”—an invitation to students, staff, faculty, and alumnae of the University of California, Berkeley, to say “thnx” every day for two weeks. Thnx4’s launch received considerable media coverage and engaged users from around the world; our analysis of its initial round of data showed that it gave a significant boost to users’ health and happiness. Thnx4 will go offline in the summer of 2013 and relaunch before Thanksgiving.

  • If you are a researcher interested in using Thnx4.org, please contact gratitude@berkeley.edu
  • If you’d like to bring a Gratitude Challenge to your campus, company, or community, contact gratitude@berkeley.edu
  • Media queries should be directed to Elise Proulx at eproulx@berkeley.edu

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