Josh Coyne: A Happy Little Thing Called "Thank You"

Josh Coyne, CSOM ’14, made a splash this Sunday when he posted a video about his senior thesis. The nine-minute video, which has received over 2,400 views, focused on a simple topic: gratitude.

Coyne had been grappling with his thesis topic for months. He knew he had no interest in pursuing an intense CSOM thesis, like the predictability of the stock market through the NFL draft. “It doesn’t really capture my interests,” says Coyne.

Inspired by his work as a Portico TA last semester and Shawn Achor’s Ted Talks, Coyne realized that he wanted to study happiness. Through conversations with Achor (who works at Harvard) and other reflections, Coyne narrowed down the scope of his topic. He decided to see how an expression of gratitude influences stress levels, lack of self-love and happiness.

After figuring out what he wanted to study, Coyne ran into another hurdle—finding an advisor for his thesis. Facing multiple rejections from CSOM advisors, Coyne turned to Dean Ethan Sullivan.

“He’s been the absolute best,” says Coyne, “He helped make it more statistical and academic.” Sullivan and Coyne figured out how happiness feeds into the business world through ethics, organizational behavior and other fields.

After pondering how to study the effects of gratitude, he decided to have people express gratitude in an “unexpected way.”

“People don’t usually say stuff they believe,” says Coyne.

So that is exactly what he had them do. The experiment began with 30 participants taking a survey asking them questions about the topics Coyne intended to measure. The participants were then asked to write a short essay about someone, living or deceased, whom they are grateful for. Coyne then asked the participants to call the person they had written about or read aloud if the person had passed.

Thinking it would be cool to capture and share the reactions, Coyne borrowed a camera from his friend and videotaped his participants over the course of two weeks. Putting aside his other homework, Coyne spent hours on his weekend visit home to finish the video.

The results were powerful. The video displays BC students laughing, crying and, most importantly, being grateful. Coyne also found that when participants took the questionnaire after expressing gratitude, they had “decreased stress, increased self-love and boosted happiness.”

“It was a privilege for me to share their stories; to learn what makes their lives special, and who makes it special,” says Coyne.

Coyne hopes that the video will cause BC students and others to realize that they have a lot to be grateful for.

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Madeline Cortes