The Essence of Gratitude:
“You need a zest for life to get the best from life.”; “You get back what you put in.” ; “What goes around comes around.” There are a lot of well-worn sayings about the nature and benefits of gratitude, and they all orbit one truth: those who count their blessings often, often find more blessings than they can count.
There’s a lot to be said about a grateful attitude, but even more to recommend it. A bit over a decade ago, the science of psychology began to move away from studying negative emotions and toward positive ones. Among the most intriguing emotions was gratitude, but science wasn’t the first to discover and value it.
Gratitude was recognized and honoured in ancient societies. Many of the world’s religions have placed importance on gratitude in one’s approach not only to worship, but to life. The significance of gratitude in religion is often to a higher power for creating the world and the worshipper, and the blessings one receives. For this reason, higher levels of gratitude are said to correlate with deeper spirituality.
The Benefits of Gratitude:
In the course of psychological studies, gratitude was found to possess a number of qualitative benefits for those who practiced it. A 2002 study headed by Michael E. McCullough discovered that grateful people are more empathetic and supportive. Unsurprisingly, they are often seen by others as more helpful and generous. Grateful people are also less likely to suffer from jealousy. So, if you want to improve your social life and how you feel about it, you could start by practicing a little gratitude. The grateful crowd might just be the one you’ve been looking for.
Worried for your own health? Gratitude has you covered there, as well. There are strong associations between a grateful state of being and the cornerstone of healthiness: sleep. Grateful people tend to have more positive thoughts before sleep, and sleep quality is critical for a healthy body. Therefore it is unsurprising that the immune system reaps benefits from gratitude.
Mental health can be greatly improved by gratitude. Grateful people are reported to be more resilient to negative experiences, since they tend to keep positives in mind. This makes them less susceptible to depressive episodes and better able to navigate challenges. Well–being and gratitude walk hand in hand.
Gratitude for Beginners:
We may be tempted to think that gratitude is for people who are already blessed—they definitely have blessings to count. We may also be tempted to think that gratitude is for those who are blind to or incapable of negativity, which is incorrect. Grateful people have a healthy tendency to acknowledge the negative while their focus is on the positive.
Focus on abundance in your life. You may be waiting in traffic, but at least you have a car, air conditioning, and that song you love. You may be stuck in line at the grocery store, but you notice someone being helpful or gracious, or smile at you. The small things, when you count them, become an abundance.
Try to appreciate the little things you may often ignore. Those weeds growing in an abandoned lot might be a lot more beautiful than you thought. They may also smell better than the street. The small details of life are often overlooked, but they’re a world of their own, rich with meaning: humble embellishments to the beauty of life.
One of the most meaningful steps you can take to develop and nurture a grateful perspective is to keep a gratitude journal. It’s a very simple process: simply note several things each day that you’re grateful for, and include reasons. After a little while you’ll notice more blessings and find that the hassles of life are not quite as sharp or disappointing as before.
Gratitude: Made to Share:
Gratitude’s effects don’t stop with you. In fact, your well–being and that of others can be enhanced by communicating sincere gratitude to those around you. This creates an effect that has been referred to as ‘the cycle of virtue’ and ‘upward spiral’ where your positive attitude not only leads to further positives for you, but can inspire greater positivity around you.
Sharing your feeling of gratitude with a loved one can strengthen your relationship and increase the frequency and depth of communication. People love being appreciated, and a grateful mindset loves sharing appreciation. Taking the time to write a thank you note, or even tell a person why you’re grateful for them, can make a huge difference in their day. It might even change the course of their life for the better.
Gratitude is an immensely powerful, graceful, and thoughtful concept. Let us embrace it in our lives, so that it may spread from our homes into our communities and into our world. It may well be just what we need.