MIT Students, Asma Ghandeharioun, Asaph Azaria, Sara Taylor and Rosalind W. Picard Research suggest being ‘Kind and Grateful’ (gratitude) positively influences psychological wellbeing and physical health

MIT research students Asma Ghandeharioun, Asaph Azaria, Sara Taylor and Rosalind W. Picard have developed

“Kind and Grateful”: Promoting Kindness and Gratitude with Pervasive Technology

Team has designed a novel system to promote kindness and gratitude. They leverage pervasive technologies to naturally embed gratitude inspiration in everyday life. Mobile sensor data is utilized to infer optimal moments for stimulating contextually relevant thankfulness and appreciation. Team then analyzed the interplay between mood, contextual cues, and gratitude expressions.

“Kind and Grateful”: A Context‑Sensitive Smartphone App Utilizing Inspirational Content to Promote GratitudePrevious research has shown that gratitude positively influences psychological wellbeing and physical health. Grateful people are reported to feel more optimistic and happy, to better mitigate aversive experiences, and to have stronger interpersonal bonds.

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Gratitude interventions have been shown to result in improved sleep, more frequent exercise and stronger cardiovascular and immune systems. These findings call for the development of technologies that would inspire gratitude. This paper presents a novel system designed toward this end

We leverage pervasive technologies to naturally embed inspiration to express gratitude in everyday life. Novel to this work, mobile sensor data is utilized to infer optimal moments for stimulating contextually relevant thankfulness and appreciation. Sporadic mood measurements are inventively obtained through the smartphone lock screen, investigating their interplay with grateful expressions. Both momentary thankful emotion and dispositional gratitude are measured.

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In both rounds of the trial, the intervention was associated with improved thankful behavior. Significant increase was observed in multiple facets of practicing gratitude in the intervention groups. The average frequency of practicing thankfulness increased by more than 120 %, comparing the baseline weeks with the intervention weeks of the main study.

In contrast, the control group of the same study exhibited a decrease of 90 % in the frequency of thankful expressions. In the course of the study’s 5 weeks, increases in dispositional gratitude and in psychological wellbeing were also apparent. Analyzing the relation between mood and gratitude expressions, our data suggest that practicing gratitude increases the probability of going up in terms of emotional valence and down in terms of emotional arousal.

The influences of inspirational content and contextual cues on promoting thankful behavior were also analyzed: We present data suggesting that the more successful times for eliciting expressions of gratitude tend to be shortly after a social experience, shortly after location change, and shortly after physical activity.

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