15 Nov Having An Attitude of Gratitude
In general terms, gratitude is a feeling that occurs in exchange-based relationships when one person acknowledges receiving a valuable benefit from another; with benefits referring to both interpersonal gifts and relationships of value. In this way, gratitude can be seen as both a state and a trait. State gratitude is based on the ability to be empathic as a result of receiving something positive from an external source. Trait gratitude, however, can be viewed as a life orientation which involves noticing and being grateful for the positive in the world. Gratitude is recognised as a universal emotion across cultures; almost everyone can develop the capacity for experiencing gratitude.
Why is gratitude important?
Research shows that practising gratitude can increase wellbeing and promote a healthy life across a variety of areas including:
Physical Health: Regularly practising gratitude has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration whilst also positively impacting decision making processes and the achievement of goals. In addition, gratitude has been shown to lead to increased energy levels too.
Social Health: Gratitude is a powerful tool for strengthening interpersonal relationships as people who express more gratitude tend to be more forgiving. This can lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships, healthier interactions and a stronger sense of connectedness with others.
Emotional Health: Research has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude show increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction as focusing on the positive tends to protect us from stress and negativity, leading to decreased levels of anxiety and depression.
In order to increase our gratitude levels and the way in which we practice gratitude, there are a number of activities that we can engage in. Here are some examples:
1: Gratitude journaling: This consists of writing on a regular basis about anything one feels specifically grateful for including people, places, events and things. The frequency of writing is entirely dependent on the person and can vary from writing daily to a single time.
2: Writing a gratitude letter: This involves writing a letter to someone you are grateful for in your life, but who you have never properly thanked. After the letter has been written its content is read aloud to the intended recipient, however, the choice about whether to actually deliver the letter, or throw it away is entirely up to the writer.
3: Three Good Things: This exercise involves writing down three good things that happened in a specified period ranging from once a day to once a week.
I am grateful for –
1: These 3 abilities and strengths I have:
2: These 3 things about the world:
3: These people who have impacted my life:
4: These things I have achieved:
5: These memories:
6: These lessons I have learnt:
Beken-Jans, L., Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L & Lataster, J. (2019). Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2019.1651888
Written by Stacey Rontiris – Head of Programmes, Counselling Psychologist at Tomorrow Trust