What is gratitude?
Gratitude, in simple terms, is the quality of being thankful. Robert Emmons, an expert on gratitude from UC Davis, states that gratitude composes of two key components: the "affirmation of goodness" in the world and that "sources of goodness are outside of ourselves". Research on gratitude finds the social dimension as being especially important for gratitude, because "it requires us to see how we've been supported and affirmed by other people".
Benefits of gratitude
Practicing gratitude helps us take time to notice and reflect upon our life. It helps us experience more positive emotions, sleep better, and express more compassion for people. The positive psychology behind gratitude is powerful. It's not just about expressing gratitude during the peaks of your life. It's about feeling grateful in your daily life for simple things. You will become grateful for things like your physical health and wellbeing. The habit of keeping a daily gratitude journal can make you obtain more life satisfaction. Just the simple act of keeping notes on things you are grateful for helps you experience lower anxiety and stress levels.
Changing your perspective on gratitude
Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that the attitude of gratitude can make you happier. Grateful thinking promotes the enjoyment of life experiences. Gratitude also boosts your self-esteem. You are able to reflect on how much you have accomplished and how much people have done for you. Gratitude also helps you deal with trauma better. Traumatic memories are less like to surface for grateful people. It helps you move on and begin anew. The feeling of gratitude makes you more likely to help people. The more you count your blessings, the more generous you become. You stop focusing on the acquisition of things, and you care more for the welfare of others.
How to apply gratitude practices to your life
The practice of gratitude helps you build stronger emotional intelligence. Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, offers a practice called Gratitude Visits. Here is how it's applied:
Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face?
Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. In this exercise … you will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to express your gratitude in a thoughtful, purposeful manner.
Your task is to write a letter of gratitude to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words: be specific about what she did for you and how it affected your life. Let her know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing! Once you have written the testimonial, call the person and tell her you’d like to visit her, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting; this exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet her, take your time reading your letter.
Gratitude letters, Seligman promises, will make you feel happier and less depressed a month from now. The gratitude habit will change the way you see your life. Consistently doing gratitude activities will help you focus on your blessings, rather than your negative circumstances. Though simple, gratitude exercises will help you break from a negative state and into a joyous way of life.
A second exercise called the "Three Blessings", focuses on writing down three things that went well today. The three things can be simple, like "I went running for 30 minutes" or "my sister brought me some cake". Then next to them, write down why did it happen? For example, next to "my sister brought me some cake", you might write "she's a really kind and thoughtful person". Writing down grateful moments help you express your gratitude for the people in your life. It helps you recognize that the loved ones in your life care about you. This simple act will elevate your levels of gratitude and your overall happiness.
The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to appreciate all the moments of your life. Small habits like gratitude journaling work well because it forces us to take note of all the blessings in our situation. If we focus our gratitude on people, it gives us an opportunity to pay it forward and allow others to bask in unified joy. Let us take today as an opportunity to count our blessings. The expression of gratitude transforms every day into a beautiful day, as long as we spend time looking for the good.