The Gratitude Feedback Loop

beth-circle-headBy Beth Heller

This month our blog reflects on gratitude, the positive emotion felt when one recognizes that one has been given something of value from another.  Gratitude is topical this month, not just because Thanksgiving is on the horizon, but because Live’s current community initiative to re-imagine well-being across the Greater Green Bay Area, The GROW Project, brings us home to the gratitude we feel for everyone going the extra mile to contribute to a culture of well-being in our community.  

As a vivid example, yesterday, we had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for a series of 15 bike repair stations throughout Greater Green Bay.  These stations, designed to provide practical assistance for cyclists, also serve as a visual affirmation that Green Bay is a bike-friendly community.  In addition, the stations create community and invite connection as cyclists stop to tighten a chain or top up their tires.  The collaborative nature of this program, which was spearheaded by a Greater Green Bay Chamber’s Leadership Green Bay team, included many community partners.  The Green Bay Bicycle Collective, Brown County Parks Department, Madison-area bike shop Saris, and municipal leaders from De Pere, Allouez and Green Bay worked together to take the program from theory to practice.  


Perhaps the most powerful part of the ribbon cutting was the theme of gratitude and teamwork expressed within the diverse group of stakeholders in the room.  In this instance, city and county governments, citizen action groups and volunteers from the business sector took time to thank each other for their commitment to a shared vision of making Greater Green Bay a more active, bike-friendly place.  While on the surface it might seem like a photo-op, research suggests that harnessing gratitude might be a powerful tool for prompting positive change on a communal level. In a recent meta-analysis published in the American Psychological Association’s bulletin found a positive correlation across 91 studies between gratitude and prosociality, a social science term for the engagement in behaviors that benefit others.

Viewed this way, gratitude presents a tool for connecting the dots between civic pride and civic action.  So how do we grow a sense of gratitude in our community?  The definition of the word gratitude stated above could provide a clue.  Creating public opportunities, like this awesome project to build bike stations, where diverse groups and individuals can give something of value to each other and to the community, creates momentum towards more beneficial collaboration.  

Have you seen gratitude create this sort of positive feedback loop in your community?  Share your experiences with us here!  


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