Social Support and Gratitude: Assessing Divergence through Writing
Anspach, Abigail S.
Although two types of emotional writing have been previously studied, there is no research that examines writing about social support. Yet the hypothesized mechanisms that drive benefits of gratitude journaling and expressive writing appear to be relevant to the process of receiving social support. Thus, the present study examined writing about social support and writing about gratitude in order to ascertain how each kind of writing was associated with differing short-term outcomes. A secondary goal was to investigate how dispositional variables might correlate with components of the written responses. In order to assess these questions, participants completed a survey in which they were randomized to either write about a time when they received social support or a time when they felt grateful to someone but did not properly thank them. A variety of measures assessing both state and trait-level variables followed this exercise, and the participants’ responses were content-coded using a 12-item scheme. Results indicated positive short-term outcomes for writing about social support including increased feelings of pride and relief, which may have been mediated by emotion sharing. Participants in the gratitude condition experienced increased feelings of gratitude, but this was accompanied by feelings of regret and guilt. Unfortunately, the correlational data between the coded constructs and the dispositional variables was likely compromised due to the placement of the measures in the survey. These findings indicate that the mechanisms which drive the benefits of writing about social support most clearly align with those hypothesized to drive expressive writing. Further research should therefore evaluate the outcomes of writing about social support long-term as well as the mechanisms of emotional writing.