More recently, I have been focusing on writing-intervention studies designed to facilitate gratitude. I have been exploring the effects of writing about grateful feelings on coping with stress and promoting posttraumatic growth following stressful life events. Described ahead is a brief summary of my ongoing research.
Writing about stressful life events has psychological and physical health benefits (King & Miner, 2000; Pennebaker, 1993; Pennebaker, Barger, & Tiebout, 1989), and grateful processing of stressful life events has been found to promote well being (Watkins, Cruz, Holben, & Kolts, 2008). In the past decade, there has been accumulating evidence for the psychological, social, and physical benefits of gratitude (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001). Gratitude as a coping mechanism promotes positive reinterpretation of life events, successful resolvement of unpleasant memories, and alleviates stress and mild depression (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003; Watkins, et al., 2008; Wood et al., 2008). My ongoing research has three overarching purposes. First, I plan to examine the benefits of grateful processing of stressful life events, through writing from a grateful standpoint, compared to other forms of writing (e.g., meaning-focused or fact-focused). Second, I intend to examine the benefits of grateful writing in specific life domains such as romantic relationships. Third, I plan to test the potential practical applications of this research by examining benefits of grateful writing for clinically depressed and socially anxious individuals.
In future, besides my current research, I plan to explore (a) the effects of positive psychological interventions, particularly gratitude, on the quality of romantic relationships, (b) the influence of gratitude on cognitive processes (e.g., self-conceptions and construction of a personal history across the life span), and (c) appraisals and experience of gratitude across cultures. After completing my Ph.D., I plan to pursue a career in academia where I can continue my research and teach.