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What's Gratitude Got To Do With It?

by Victoria Pynchon
November 2009

From Settle It Now Negotiation Blog

Victoria Pynchon

(may I offer you a second helping of Jimmy Choo shoes with your turkey?)

Before sharing Brian Solis' succinct and brilliant post the Benevolent Acts of Reciprocity and Recognition and Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness (excerpt below) I want to once again make a few remarks about what we all seek to achieve with rights and remedies (particularly in the post-scarcity society in which we too often forget we live):

  1. we want rights because we are genetically programmed and culturally conditioned to be fair (remember the Capuchin monkeys who, trained to work for "money" staged a sit-down strike when others doing the same work were compensated at five times the rate as their under compensated fellows);
  2. rights are meant to guarantee us equal treatment in the distribution of public benefits and resources; and, equal access to public and private accommodations;
  3. remedies are meant to restore private and public resources to those who have been deprived of them because some one; group; organization or governmental entity has broken one or more rules by which we have chosen to govern ourselves; and,
  4. money is a means to an end, not an end in itself and each of us desires money for the same reasons - control of our own destiny (power; self expression); access to the benefits of the social contract (FDR's four freedoms); security against an uncertain future (access to medical services and a mimimal standard of living if we become unable to care for ourselves); meaningful occupation; the opportunity to be of unique service to our fellows; love; and, joy (monetary sub-goals such as a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes are also simply a [misguided] means to achieve these ends).

I have been taken to task for being "touchy-feely" or "new age" or of insufficient value to my "market" because I say these things repeatedly in public.  My "market," I'm told, would rather be right than happy; would rather someone lose so that they can win; and, believe the only thing anyone wants is money.

I don't believe it and I am committed to holding this space as a place-marker for my "people" who are suffering.  Which people are those?  Litigators. 

The challenge of this and every year:  How do we even begin to introduce the concept that we can more easily, efficiently and effectively satisfy the true interests of our fellows-in-the-social-condition than we can satisfy one individual's demand for preeminence over another? 

On our least divisive, most-inclusive and thoroughly secular holiday of Thanksgiving, we can begin to alleviate the suffering caused by zero-sum games with gratitude -- the benefits of which are being studied by a team of researchers at my legal alma mater, U.C. Davis.

Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being. Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept. This document is intended to provide a brief, introductory overview of the major findings to date of the research project. For further information, please contact Robert Emmons. This project is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

We are engaged in two main lines of inquiry at the present time: (1) developing methods to cultivate gratitude in daily life and assess gratitude’s effect on well-being, and (2) developing a measure to reliably assess individual differences in dispositional gratefulness.

Gratitude Interventions and Psychological and Physical Well-Being

* In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

* A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

* A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.

* Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.

* In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

* Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).

There's more at the link!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Biography


Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all types of business torts and contract disputes.  During her two years of full-time neutral practice, she has co-mediated both mandatory and voluntary settlement conferences with Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Alexander Williams, III and Victoria Chaney.  As a result of her work with Judge Chaney in the Complex Court at Central Civil West, Ms. Pynchon has gained significant experience mediating construction defect litigation.  Ms. Pynchon received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the U.C. Davis School of Law. 



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