Following on from last time, I am continuing posts in the “Positive Psychology” series of looking at the often-overlooked positive emotions. Today I will look at gratitude.
It can be very hard to feel gratitude when things are difficult. It might seem that everything is going wrong and you don’t have anything to be grateful for. However, it is at times like these that we are also most likely to overlook the small things we have – they simply won’t register with us unless we make an effort to see them. It’s easy to end up in a downward cycle. Focussing on these things and working through difficulties can be done side-by-side, to help you feel better.
Positive Psychologists have expanded the definition of gratitude to mean more than just feeling thankful – it also includes a deep and meaningful appreciation for something or someone. Not only does this result in feeling good in ourselves, it also encourages us to reach out more to other people. We might offer a sincere thank you or a favour in return to the person who we feel gratitude towards, or we might “pay forward” the kindness to someone else. This is part of Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build” model.
Simply acknowledging something with gratitude can make a huge difference to our relationships. For example, how do you respond when someone compliments you? Do you reject the compliment out of hand, or thank the person giving it? What a gift it is back to the other person, how good it might make them feel, to sincerely thank them rather than telling them they are wrong! Do you know that your friends and loved ones know how you feel about them? Or are you just assuming that they know? How might you show you gratitude and appreciation for their presence in your life?
What about the objects in your life? Your home, your work, your food and drink?
Some people keep a “gratitude journal” to help them hone their ability to feel gratitude. This link has some tips on getting the most out of your journal.
Here are 100 suggestions of things to be grateful for if you are having trouble getting going. Maybe not all of them will apply to you – it’s okay not to get 100%!
How about if I start?
Right now, I am grateful for my computer and the internet so I can write this blog post. I am grateful for the sound of birdsong outside my window that is so soothing. I am also grateful that now I have finished writing and can have a nice cup of tea!