The topic of gratitude is a main place in many practices throughout history and it’s only in the last few years that interest has grown in this area. Gratitude enhances nearly all domains of our human experience. It may arise from the acceptance of another’s kindness, appreciating the magnificence of nature, or recognising the gifts in one’s own life (Emmons & Stern, 2013).
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. – Zig Zaglar
Research has shown that gratitude practices can have powerful and long-lasting effects including:
- higher levels of happiness, joy, love, enthusiasm and well-being
- an increase in acts of helpfulness, generosity, and cooperation
- improvements in immune function
- enhancement in length and quality of sleep
- lowering of blood pressure
- cultivates exercise
- protects against stress, envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.
(Emmons & Stern, 2013)
Gratitude practice is systematically paying attention to what is going right in one’s life, to see the contributions that others make in these good things, and then expressing gratitude verbally and behaviourally. Gratitude practice is intentionally shifting your attention from the negative to the positive and allowing your inner voice to speak that truth. Gratitude practice is acknowledging that even difﬁcult and painful moments are our teachers and we can be grateful for them. - Emmons & Stern, 2013
Sharing my story..
When I stepped into a gratitude practice for the first time, it was a tick box exercise. I knew from lots of reading that there were a multitude of benefits in practicing gratitude and yearned to bring more of that into my life. However, what I was missing was the connection, the openness, the presence, emotion and love towards gratitude. I would sit down and at times even force myself into practicing gratitude as “it was good for me”. This led to a task-based routine, a “chore” and I lost motivation quickly.
Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things – Robert Brault
Luckily, I was reintroduced to the idea of a gratitude practice when I completed my life coaching course. One Infinite Life, provided an important reminder, to be kind to yourself and to not force yourself to complete gratitude if you aren’t called to. Approaching this in a different light, I was able to be gentle in my practice and leaned into exploring happiness and joy in every day moments. It’s like the idea of that red car you decide you want, and then all of a sudden you start seeing it everywhere. The red car was always there, it’s just now you have trained your brain to be aware of it. I love seeing gratitude practice like this! It pops up in the most ordinary daily activities.
How do I start a gratitude practice?
You may connect to the idea of having a reminder or space to express gratitude. This may come in the form of a gratitude object (a rock, a gratitude bracelet, a vision board), you may write in a gratitude journal, have a range of gratitude questions that you answer daily, use a gratitude jar or connect to gratitude app that you may explore - like taking a photo every day. Whatever you are called to, see how you could integrate a little gratitude and joy into your life each day!
Gratitude opens your heart and you mind allowing you to reflect on the good that has happened to you which in turns makes you happy and drives contentment in your life – Bola Onada Sokunbi
How can I share gratitude with others?
I really connected to this idea of extending gratitude to others. Having an internal practice of gratitude is beautiful and can bring lots of colour into our lives. Yet, the idea of expanding this to include another person is heart filling. You may enjoy writing a letter or post it note thanking someone or recognising them, you may also acknowledge people at the time, sharing a moment of gratitude for just being you. These moments bring joy to not only yourself but the person receiving it.
Research actually confirms that gratitude is an important part of relationship maintenance, in that it functions as a detector and a motivator for behaviours like taking the time to listen, completing acts of service (like taking out the trash) and promotes responsiveness where the partner feels understood, cared for and accepted (Kubacka et al., 2011). This aligns with the idea of a 5:1 deposit to deduction relationship account. By expressing and seeing the good in someone by recognising the things the do, for acknowledging their role or impact on your life we are providing small or sometimes large deposits into our emotional bank account. It is important to note these are the genuine things you are grateful for about that person and not a superficial comment like “I like your shoes”. It comes from a place of love, wholeheartedness and joy. By doing so, we build connected and powerful relationships with people.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what you have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing and mistakes into important events. – Melodie Beatty.
Follow my journey towards a 100 days of gratitude on Instagram @wholeheartedjourneys – there’s a story every day! If you’re ready to find ways to integrate gratitude into your life? I’d love to hear from you!
Emmons, R, Stern, R 2013 “Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention”, Journal of Clinical Psychoogy, vol 69, pp. 846–855.
Kubacka, K. E. et al. (2011) ‘Maintaining Close Relationships: Gratitude as a Motivator and a Detector of Maintenance Behavior’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), pp. 1362–1375.