"Oh no! My puzzle pieces fell on the floor!" I braced myself for a meltdown of epic proportions, but instead I heard "Ah well! I'm glad I got to play with them for a little while." Wow! Such wisdom from a young six-year-old soul. I seldom have the presence of mind to show gratitude in a moment of despair. But if I did - the shift in my mindset and mood for the rest of the day would be phenomenal!
But let's start at the beginning. What is gratitude and why should you care about it? Gratitude is more than the pleasant and courteous, almost robotic, "thank you" that a lot of us were taught we have to say when someone goes out of their way for us. I mean, have you ever been on the receiving end of one of those automatic, subconscious "thank you"''s? I have. Many times. And let's just say they don't exactly leave me feeling any positive tingles. And there is the discrepancy between what we may think gratitude is, and what it actually is. Gratitude is deeper than "thank you". It is the emotion behind it - a real heartfelt sense of thankfulness for this person, this place, this situation that makes you feel like you have to express this
Why be grateful?
1. It feels so great to feel deep gratitude, and so, that alone is one benefit. Elevating your positive emotions in any way leads to a cascade of more positive emotions, and who doesn't want that? And if it is a person you are thankful for, to do so whilst simultaneously expressing that gratitude to them, is a win-win. You feel good, they feel good, and the positive emotions keep spilling over like ripples in the rest of your day.
2. Gratitude has been shown in the research to have immense benefits for our physical health as well. Hooray! People who are grateful are more likely to look after their bodies by engaging in exercise and eating mindfully, which of course lends itself to huge physical plus-points!
3. Put simply, being grateful makes you happy! By focusing on things that you are grateful for, you are shifting away from feelings of regret, or despair, or jealousy.
These only touch on the benefits of gratitude, which have been shown to be plenty! Read more about them here.
How can you be grateful?
1. A popular way to practise gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. This can be used in more than one way - either by prescribing a specific time in the day or week to note down a few things that you are thankful for, or by noting down things that you are grateful for as they happen. In either case, the act of writing things down is proven to solidify experiences for us, and having a regular journal will help you to have a gratitude anchor that you can always come back to.
2. Get out there and create opportunities to be grateful. By finding ways to help other people voluntarily, you will be helping those people feel a sense of gratitude for you. At the same time, you may start to see all the things in your life that you are thankful for, that perhaps others are not as fortunate to have. Pay it forward!
3. It is difficult to feel grateful in a difficult situation. But you can look back on challenges in your past, and take time to recognize the aspects of those challenges that have helped you. If you can find goodness in difficult times, you have taken a huge gratitude leap!
More ways to practise gratitude can be found here.
So now that you know what it is, why it is so beneficial, and how to do it, how about taking some time to experiment with gratitude practice and experience more positive emotions in your life?
I am a certified positive psychology life coach, co-founder of Soul Space, and certified children's yoga instructor. Find out more about my coaching approach here:
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