“the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” (Sanone & Sanone, 2010)
The word gratitude has been defined in many contexts such as, an emotional state, an attitude, a habit, a personality trait and even a moral virtue. The concept of gratitude is part of positive psychology, which is the scientific study of positive human functioning and what makes life worth living (Source). The definition above attempts to incorporate these contexts for a more general definition.
Expressing gratitude is more than just saying “Thank You”
Practicing gratitude is taking time to reflect and pay attention to the things in your life you feel grateful for. As a result, you feel more compassionate and positive about the world around you. Gratitude benefits personal relationships because it is associated with the ability to forgive and be less narcissistic (Source). Research has also suggested that showing gratitude is corelated to a person’s over all well-being. By showing gratitude you embody a positive attitude which impacts your personal, professional and social life for the better.
Gratitude is usually felt in two ways:
- Inward: Acknowledging all the good in your life. Appreciating all that you have and receive.
- Outward: Recognising the good in the world around you, for instance in other people, animals, nature or anything else outside of yourself.
Why Gratitude is important(Source)
- Health benefits, both mental and physical: People who express gratitude are less likely to have aches and pains compared to other people. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of themselves which positively impacts their health. When a person shows gratitude, they have an overall positive attitude and as a result experience fewer negative or toxic emotions such as envy, frustration or resentment. Researcher Robert Emmons has also found a positive correlation between gratitude and happiness.
- Increases empathy and reduces aggression: This is a result of the appreciation one shows for the world around them.
- Gratitude can help you sleep better: A study has shown that if a person spends 15 minutes before sleeping writing down moments they feel grateful for during the day, they can sleep longer and better.
- Improvements in self-esteem: This is because expressing gratitude can result in fewer social comparisons, grateful people are able to find joy for others and their accomplishments.
Ways to practice gratitude
- Gratitude Jar: This is done by filling a jar with small notes or doddles every day with one thing you were grateful for. It can serve as a reassurance for those extremely tough or long days.
- Gratitude journal: Consist of reflection of moments you were thankful for. According to psychologist Robert Emmons it can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
- Donating your Time or your Money to support a cause that you feel passionately about.
- Gratitude shouldn’t be saved just for momentous occasions. We often take for granted all the small things our loved ones do for us. Try to recognise and appreciate the things people do for you and make it a point to thank them.
At first it may not come naturally to you but you can train yourself to show gratitude. Simply by taking the time to observe the world around you or by doing one of the activities listed above you can learn how to show gratitude.