26 August 2016
What is gratitude?
Gratitude can mean being thankful, noticing simple pleasures and acknowledging the good in your life. Habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life helps refocus on what you have rather than what you lack. It allows you to appreciate what you have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make you happier.
Dr Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology, a leading scientific expert on gratitude and author of a number of books. Research conducted by Dr Emmons as well as many others, shows that there is an association between gratitude and well-being. If people actively try to be grateful in their everyday lives, then they’re likely to become happier as well. In particular, being grateful can:
Increase enthusiasm, optimism and energy
Make you happier & more resilient
Reduce stress and depression
How to practice gratitude
Gratitude Journal - One of the main ways to practice gratitude is to write a gratitude journal. Pick a time each day or week to write down 3 things that you are grateful for. Don’t overdo it, every day may be a bit much for you, but do commit to a regular time.
The level of importance doesn’t matter – it could be as simple as being grateful for the nice lunch you had or it could be a major event like the birth of a baby in the family. Be specific, for example, “I am grateful my husband made dinner for me tonight” is better than “I am grateful for my husband”.
Also, get the children involved and as a family go round the dinner table each evening and each say what you are grateful for.
Be wary of overdosing on gratitude. Focus on the quality of your gratitude exercises rather than quantity. If you do need a break from the journal, or if journaling is not your thing, there are some great alternative ideas such as creating a gratitude album where you take a photo each day that captures what you’re grateful for, or make a gratitude jar where you write on a piece of paper and drop it in a jar and then you can grab them out and read them whenever you need a lift.
If you don’t like the idea of writing down what you’re grateful for, you can say it in your mind. Start the day with it or end the day with it.
Some other ways to practice gratitude include:
Stop and notice instances of natural beauty – a sunrise, flower, bird singing, etc.
Write a thankyou letter to someone who you appreciate for their impact on your life. Send it to them or even better, read it to them in person.
Thank someone mentally. It may help to just think about someone who has done something nice for you and thank them mentally.
Reduce complaining and gossiping – don’t waste your energy on negative thoughts.
Pay genuine compliments to others regularly – which will make them feel good as well as you.
Make it a Habit
It may be difficult at first to practice gratitude on an ongoing basis, but it grows easier with use and practice. You really don’t need any tools to practice gratitude, but if you need a little help to get in the habit, here are some things to keep you on track:
Watch the beautiful images in this short film on gratitude and appreciating the simple things.
Purchase a gratitude journal like this one from Kikki.K
Even technology can help us, like this clever gratitude app
Share your gratitude online with the world at The Gratitude Jar
Mix it up – the Greater Good in Action website has some different activities for not only gratitude but also kindness, mindfulness, optimism, etc.