The word gratitude is derived from the Latin root gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. According to studies, practising gratitude truly has an effect on your mood and overall health.
Being actively grateful is a state of mind, a way of life. It is a daily awareness and practice of savouring and appreciating the positive circumstances in our life. It helps us realise that all we have is enough.
Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have– Unknown
If you are not in a good emotional place at the moment or you have the blues, it is in fact the perfect time to try the ‘gratitude attitude’. In a challenging moment, it can be hard to see positive forces beyond the obstacles. Even in difficult times, there is always something to be thankful for! Remember that out of overcoming challenges comes strength. There is a Persian proverb that says ‘Only in the dark we can see the stars’. It is all about changing our perspective on events. Something that may appear negative at the time, might actually bring a positive outcome.
When you find yourself in such a situation ask: What can I learn? When I will look back on this, without emotion, what will I be grateful for? Try to let go of negative events or emotions and replace them with a feeling of gratitude for positive things or people who are already part of your life.
Appreciation can make a day, even change in your life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary’. Margaret Cousins
Being consciously grateful for and appreciative of your blessings will maximise your contentment about life situations. Focusing on the positive in your life instead of the negative, the hassles and the complaints will increase your wellbeing significantly.
Gratitude is effective in building psychological, social, and spiritual resources, and it also inspires social reciprocity and altruism. If we think about the good we have received from others, it helps us feel loved and cared for. Gratitude is therefore a form of love and practising it means opening the door to abundance.
Benefits of practising gratitude
- You will feel more satisfaction in your life
- You will feel more optimistic
- You will feel more connected to others
- You will feel better about your life as a whole
- Consistent improvement in your physical and mental health
- Higher levels of positive affect and diminution of negative affect
- Fewer physical complaints and more time exercising
- Improvement of the amount and quality of sleep
- Enables flexible and creative thinking
- Facilitates coping with stress and adversity
- Develops compassion and higher likelihood to offer emotional support to someone else
How to practise gratitude
- Be thankful for ‘little’ things and say ‘Thank you’. That is all it takes!
- Spend 2 minutes daily reflecting on all the things you are grateful for during your day. When you do that first thing in the morning, it sets a very positive tone to your day. It’s also powerful to reflect on and express gratitude about happy circumstances that happened in your day, as you go to bed.
- Keep a gratitude journal and list 3-5 things you are thankful for everyday (The mini-notebook in your bag works too!).
- Place photos and objects of gratitude in your house/apartment.
- Write a Thank You note to someone.
- Express your appreciation to everything and everyone you encounter. By blessing, we are blessed.
- Acknowledge one ungrateful thought and replace it with a grateful one.
- Write a letter or an email of gratitude to someone who strongly impacted on your life and send it to them. If you have the possibility to visit them, it is an even more powerful experience and can be life-changing for many people.
- Vow to not complain, criticise, or gossip for 10 days. If you slip, rally your willpower and keep going. Notice the amount of energy you were spending on negative thoughts and actions.
- It also works with your child. Ask them to count 3 blessings they experienced during that day. It is very beneficial, especially if they had a bad day. After telling you all the ‘bad’ stuff, you can both focus on positive thoughts. Encouraging your child to see them can help turn things around.
- If you teach children, you can easily create a gratitude tree with your class. Each student expresses what they are grateful for in an artistic way! It is fun and instils in them the notion of thankfulness.
You can be grateful for waking up this morning, the rainbow, having a roof over your head and food to eat, the generosity of a friend, being alive, being in good health, feeling the sunshine on your face, the smile or kindness of a stranger, the book you are reading at the moment, deepening your meditation or yoga practice, your relationship, getting the green light while driving, seeing flowers blossom in your garden… Just the knowledge of it will spark gratitude.
A short exercise
Find a quiet spot. Sit nice and tall. Focus on your breath for a few moments, inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Feel your chest expand as you inhale. As your chest inflates, shift your attention to your heart. After several breaths, you will begin to feel a warm, loving sensation. Congratulations! You have just cracked open that sensation of “just happy to be alive!” and are experiencing the miraculous!
Try to count your blessings daily for a week and observe how you feel. Then, continue the following week, and the week after and so on!
Gratitude not only makes us feel good in the present but is also very likely to make us feel good in the future. Remember that happiness does not make us feel grateful but gratefulness can help us to be happy!
What are you grateful for today? How do you practise gratitude? Share it with us in the comments below.
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