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The Fast Track to a Life Well Lived Is Feeling Grateful

David DeSteno: How does gratitude work its mental magic? By what mechanism does it make us willing to devote time, money, or other resources to repay others rather than to enhance our own enjoyment? It appears to come down to self-control. Any time a person sacrifices for another, she’s choosing to forgo her own immediate needs in service of a larger future gain. For instance, if you value your friendship with someone, the gratitude you feel when he helps you move your sofa to a new apartment makes it more likely you’ll return the favor, even though at the time he asks for help you’d rather be doing almost anything else than hoisting furniture. Yet, agreeing to help is necessary for ensuring that the benefits of that friendship keep coming down the line — benefits that, when aggregated over time, will likely outweigh the pleasant feelings of going out to dinner if it means leaving a friend in the lurch.

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