Gratitude; “a sense of thankfulness and happiness in response to receiving a gift, either a tangible benefit given by someone or a fortunate happenstance” (American Psychological Association).
When did you last take the time to engage in a moment of gratitude? What did you notice? What did you feel? What happened afterwards?
Gratitude has this amazing ability to allow us to feel greater levels of happiness as we relish in moments of thanks and contentment. As we sit in this space, we are bringing further awareness to an experience or moment which in turn contributes positively to our mental health.
No matter how rubbish a day of ours might be, how overwhelming an experience is or how difficult a particular moment can play out, there is usually always something positive we can take away or be grateful for. It is so beneficial for us to spend time reflecting on these instances so we can experience moments of appreciation despite the doom and gloom that life can sometimes bring our way.
Gratitude doesn’t need to be a gigantic gesture or hugely significant or influential moment.
It can be a simple pleasure. A good night’s sleep.
A lovely coffee to start your day. Sunshine as you walk to work.
A pumping playlist as you complete your daily workout.
A nutritious snack.
An entertaining Netflix series. A good laugh with a friend. A supportive family. A warm bed.
There are so many benefits when practicing gratitude; for our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and social wellbeing. Let me dive into a few of these below;
Reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms: calms our mind, challenges negative thoughts/feelings/emotions, allows space to search for the ‘gems’ despite a situation or experience
Improves self-esteem: gratitude can help you to feel better about your personal circumstance and improves life satisfaction which leads to feeling more certain of yourself
Increases levels of resilience: allows you to recover and bounce back from stressful and overwhelming incidents, acting as a buffer against internalising symptoms
Boosts levels of compassion and empathy: acknowledging others (or our beautiful self!) and embracing moments of thanks or appreciation can help to improve our compassion towards others and ourselves
Improves optimism: the more we reflect on what we have to be grateful for, the more we find we have to be grateful for, thus shifting our outlook and mindset to a more positive one
Increases social connections: improves and nurtures relationships and allows for greater satisfaction within different social and/or community groups
(28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings, PositivePsychology.com)
How to engage in a moment of gratitude
Like with any wellness practice, it’s important to find the right technique for you. I would recommend playing around with a few strategies to find the one which best resonates with you. Perhaps you find a few, in which case add them all to your gratitude tool-kit!
Journaling is a beautiful, private experience. One where you can be truly authentic, knowing the space created is just for you and your reflections. Studies have shown an increase in our long-term levels of happiness by over 10% when we engage in 5 minutes of gratitude each day. Just five minutes; you can do it! (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). “Those who pay attention to what is good in their life instead of what is bad are more likely to feel positively about their life”.
Here are some gratitude prompts you might like to consider for your journaling practise:
Affirmations are lovely declarations which can be made to help us bring further awareness to an experience, thought or feeling. Affirmations assist us to validate how and what we are feeling, allowing us to embrace moments of self-compassion. Pledges of gratitude, or gratitude affirmations can include statements such as “I am happy and grateful for the life I have”, “I am grateful for the people in my life”, “I am grateful for the work I do and the job I have”, “I am grateful for my strong body and mind”.
# Expressing gratitude
There are different ways to express appreciation and thanks to those close to you and/or others in the community. By doing so, we can experience moments of happiness and joy; knowing that we have had a positive impact or made a difference to someone’s life (whether that be a small ripple or a significant gesture). We can show our appreciation to someone by acknowledging a kind act someone’s done “I really appreciated it when you bought me some flowers after I had a terrible day at work”, via an act of kindness through doing someone thoughtful for someone else ‘paying it forward’ and/or telling the people in our life what they mean to us.
Mindfulness is bringing full awareness to any given moment, thought, emotion, feeling or experience. It is about being anchored in the present, remaining open minded in a curious and non-judgemental space. We activate each of our five senses when engaging in mindfulness and as such, our experience is heightened. We can practise mindful gratitude in different ways – through savouring a meal, admiring a sunset, smelling the pleasant scent of a flower, feeling the warmth of the sun or via listening to a calming song or the laugh of our child. These mindful moments of gratitude can help us to experience great joy, appreciation and levels of happiness.
Like with any new ritual, it can be beneficial to create reminders so we are prompted to engage in the practice. This helps us to turn new habits into parts of our regular routine. You may wish to consider putting up a visual reminder or setting a re-occurring notification in your phone to engage in your chosen gratitude exercise.
Before signing off this article, I will share below some links to a few calming, grounding gratitude meditations you may like to consider as a practice:
Yours in wellness,
EAP Specialist, Coach and Trainer
Positive MIND Consulting