What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is derived from the Latin word “Gratia”, which means “gratefulness”. It is a combination of feeling and behaviour, that is grateful and attitude. Gratitude is defined by many people in history, I would like to define it as “being thankful for experiences learned and received in life through other people, situations and circumstances”. Many times we say, life has taught me a lesson and we try to learn from these lessons, it is one of the forms of Gratitude. Gratitude is like any other emotion which we feel as humans. It is not something that we measure, it is purely an experience we feel and an attitude we attained. Just like any other human emotion, it cannot be the same for everyone, some might feel grateful by helping others, others might feel grateful by receiving help, some might feel grateful to nature, grateful for their own existence or some may feel grateful for what they have. It differs from person to person and situations to situations. Ultimately, everyone experiences this feeling in their life, just that we fail to acknowledge its existence at times and move ahead with our life without experiencing it deeply, and expressing it.
Watch this short video by Tremendousness which talks about Gratitude as a Science.
How does expressing gratitude help?
Positive psychologists have studied the concept of gratitude in detail, in fact, it is the most researched concept in the past 20 years. Research strongly suggests that practising gratitude improves relationships and people develop positive approaches to life.
Friedman et.al (2008) shows a strong connection between gratitude and well-being, it also in clinical psychotherapy it shows positive associations between them. Seligman et al. (2005) have also demonstrated that effects of gratitude have lasting value for well-being that extends for one month. Brown et al. (2017) people who practiced gratitude showed neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making, and it suggests that people are more attentive when they express gratitude. If practicing gratitude improves our psychological well-being, it might also positively affect our physical well-being.
Practicing gratitude is considered an essential virtue in almost all religious texts. It says that “it is human nature to have a spontaneous emotional/ positive response towards something/ someone when they show kindness” . It is not only psychologically healing but also spiritually healing and then we experience other positive emotions of satisfaction, and happiness.
How to practice gratitude?
We cognitively understand the importance of practising gratitude but are unable to understand how to practice it in our daily lives. The most important thing to remember before starting with any of the below exercises is to be consistent in following them to truly experience the feeling of gratitude deeply. Following are a few exercises that may help you-
- Noting things- Every night noting 3 amusing things you heard, watched or experienced/ 3 things you felt proud of in a day, this reminds us to feel happy and appreciate our day, research shows that it restores our faith in the world. It also helps with better sleep.
- Journaling– Keeping notes of blessings you receive in a day/ week, reflect what has happened in a week and keep writing them, this helps us to relive our experience again and might reduce burnout from our daily lives.
- Mindfulness– Practicing mindfulness exercises, you can just start with simple breathing exercises – focus on our breathing and try to stay calm and focus on the present moment. Mindfulness exercise also includes meditation and yoga. It helps to build our patience, calmness and helps you retrospect on your actions and helps you to get some insights about gratefulness in the world and in our lives.
- Thankful notes– Expressing thankfulness through notes, letters, calls or messages nurtures our relationships with other people and ultimately it creates a positive mood because we are expressing it in words.
- Self-appreciation– Practicing self-appreciation is a healthy and hopeful approach towards life, it helps in building our self-esteem, and creates an optimistic outlook towards self, which ultimately will help to see other’s helpful efforts towards us. Exercises involve mindful exercises and journaling.
- Appreciating nature– Many times, people share that they don’t feel appreciated towards anyone and self, they can begin with appreciating nature. Pay attention to nature’s beauty and acknowledge it. Take photos and videos of it and keep reminding yourself about its beauty.
- Hunting goodness– we sometimes fail to hunt goodness when we are down, we can begin with reading inspirational books, quotes and watch inspirational videos to remind ourselves that there is goodness in the world. It also increases resilience in one’s life.
- Volunteering– Volunteering in community services helps us and the community in practising gratitude by helping not only the society or the community but also ourselves in knowing our worth as individuals and how we contribute in strengthening peace.
Download and fill out this free Gratitude Journal in order to experience the same for yourself. Do let us know in the comments below if it helped you in any way 🙂
Giving thanks can make you happier. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2020, from Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Parks, D. G. (2016, November 11). Gratitude prevalent through all religions. Retrieved June 2020, from Centre Daily Times: https://www.centredaily.com/opinion/article114302198.html
Toussaint, L., & Friedman, P. H. (2008, December). Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Affect and Beliefs. Retrieved June 2020, from ReseachGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225497317_Forgiveness_Gratitude_and_Well-Being_The_Mediating_Role_of_Affect_and_Beliefs
Wong, J., & Brown, J. (2017, June 06). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved June 2020, from Greater Good Magazine: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain