Cultivating an attitude of gratitude

I have written about gratitude previously, when I did my ten-part series on the positive emotions.  Gratitude is more than saying “thanks”, it is a deep and meaningful appreciation for someone or something.  It helps us to acknowledge what we have and our good experiences, and to strengthen our relationships with others.  Time has an article on the various health benefits of developing your gratitude, and just a quick google search will bring up many more.

So, am I saying that being thankful for things will solve all your problems and make everything okay?  No, I’m not.  What fostering gratitude will do is help you develop your resilience.

Resilience is our ability to keep going when times are tough.  It’s what enables us to take life’s knockbacks and keep picking ourselves up again.  Developing resilience is a skill.  It is affected by our optimism, our tolerance of our emotions, our ability to reframe things mentally, and our gratitude.

Many people find gratitude the easiest one of those to start with, because it gives you a solid foundation based on where you are right now.  You might prefer to start elsewhere, and later blog posts will focus on other aspects of resilience.

You might be in a bad place, and asking yourself, “What have I got to be grateful for?!”.  You might find it hard to think of anything, but working hard on this can pay off.  Start simple when thinking about what you have.  You have access to a computer to read this right now.  You have air to breathe.  You have time to be here.

Try turning what seems to be a negative into something to be grateful for.  For example, you might be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of laundry you have to do – but you can be grateful for having so many clothes.  You might be grieving for a loved one, but can feel gratitude for having known and loved that person.

Some people find it helpful to write a gratitude journal.  Each day, write in your journal three different things you are grateful for.  They can be big or small, silly or serious – nobody’s opinion on your gratitude journal matters but yours!  You might want to keep it to yourself, or share it with a loved one.  Make it work for you.

Developing your gratitude can make it easier for you to see and connect with the good things in your life when it seems that things are going badly.  It can provide you with a solid foundation of resources and identity.  When we are feeling low, we tend to overestimate threats and underestimate our resources.  Developing our gratitude can help redress that balance.

What are you grateful for?

 

Gratitude

gratitude
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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!