The Power of Gratitude (with a Healthy Dose of Cynicism)

Misanthropic beliefs and attitudes come with risks to our mental health. Can gratitude help us see things another way?

Adobe Stock/ Gajus

The phrase “A healthy dose of cynicism” implies that there are good reasons to maintain a level of hostility toward the world. Those who argue for cynicism make the point that distrust can be an effective defense against manipulation. Three years into a pandemic, many people would agree that cynicism has been a useful tool in dealing with the flood of misinformation about COVID-19. 

However, there is a difference between a transitory sense of distrust (the “red flag” that alerts us when something doesn’t feel right) and the scientific definition of cynicism. Research considers cynicism to be a worldview, made up of a set of beliefs about human nature and people’s motivations—namely, that other people can’t be trusted and everyone is out for themselves. 

Cynical Condition 

This kind of Oscar the Grouch–like cynicism has been linked to a long list of physical and mental health issues. One study found that a higher level of cynicism was associated with an increased risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain) in middle-aged and older adults, while another study in a similar population…