Gratitude

Sarah Black

Sarah Black

With Christmas/thanksgiving, we’ll all soon be taking time to recognise what we’re grateful for. It’s a nice gesture, of course, but why do we do it? What is good gratitude? 

You can grow gratitude, by keeping a “gratitude journal” in which you regularly record the things for which you are grateful.  

Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem so simple and basic. After several studies the results have been overwhelming. Studies found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits: 

Physical 

  • Stronger immune systems 
  • Less bothered by aches and pains 
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Exercise more and take better care of their health 
  • Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking 

Psychological 

  • Higher levels of positive emotions 
  • More alert, alive, and awake 
  • More joy and pleasure 
  • More optimism and happiness 

Social 

  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate 
  • More forgiving 
  • More outgoing 
  • Feel less lonely and isolated. 

The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people. 

Indeed, this cuts to very heart of my definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an declaration of goodness. We can declare there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we have received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t mean ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to discover some of the goodness in our life. 

The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognise the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. 

Gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for important occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie, or the blue sky and the sunshine, or even the rain and the chilly evenings.  It makes us ALIVE 

Gratitude is simply taking time to think about all the positive things in your life. Rather than pondering on the negatives. It does not necessarily require actually telling anyone else you are thankful for the things they have done. (although, that helps) 

The Science behind Gratitude 

Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools for increasing happiness. Research shows it is the single most powerful method of increasing happiness. 

Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t cost any money. It doesn’t take much time. But the benefits of gratitude are enormous. 

But to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, you need to work at it, and be consistent.  Its not just a five-minute wonder. Although keeping a Gratitude journal can take only five minutes a week.  Studies show that if you keep a Gratitude Journal for three months you will then naturally start to change your mindset to a mind of gratitude and feelings of gratitude.  

Gratitude makes us nicer people, more social, friendly and improves relationships.  So, Be Grateful. 

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