Gratitude 2

For many of us, gratitude is a gesture of appreciation that we show whenever someone does something nice for us. Whether it’s a warm cup of tea after a long day or a much-needed helping hand with a tough project, we enjoy letting others know how much means their gesture means to us.

But gratitude is far more than just a gesture of appreciation towards others. Did you know that you can be grateful to yourself just as much (or even more) as you are to those who support you? In fact, many experts believe gratitude springs from within.

And since gratitude can significantly contribute to our overall sense of health and well-being, let’s take the time to understand what it is and how we can cultivate it.

What is gratitude?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, gratitude represents the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

When we thank people for the nice things they’ve done for us, we experience a profound sense of positivity and well-being and those who receive our praise will naturally feel great.

However, psychologists point out that when we use compliments to show our gratitude to those around us, we not only experience an improved overall mood but other health-related benefits as well.

Why gratitude matters

We live in a world where meaningful social interactions represent one of the foundations of our personal and professional well-being. Without the care and support of others, it would be almost impossible to overcome setbacks and achieve growth.

But to foster meaningful relationships, you need to invest emotional resources in the people around you. And gratitude is probably the best way to forge strong bonds with those who care about your well-being. In other words, this kind attitude allows you to show others how much you appreciate their presence and emotional support.

Gratitude is an attitude

As I mentioned earlier, gratitude is more than just a gesture of appreciation. It is an attitude that we manifest whenever something good happens in our lives. Whether it’s something we’ve done for ourselves or something that others have done for us, whenever our life takes a turn for the better, gratitude is what cultivates a positive attitude.

However, things are much more profound when it comes to this topic and psychologists have found some benefits that gratitude can have on our physical and mental health.

How gratitude came to be a hot topic

The history of gratitude – as a psychological construct – is closely tied to Positive Psychology.

When psychology was still struggling to earn its place among the sciences, researchers and practitioners placed a strong emphasis on pathology. In other words, most of them were focused on promoting mental health by fixing what’s broken.

Positive Psychology, on the other hand, brought forth a new perspective – one in which clinicians aimed to help individuals discover their inner resources and build resilience in other to keep mental health problems at bay.

And one of the most popular concepts promoted by this new approach to mental health was gratitude, a concept that has reshaped our attitude towards ourselves, others, and the world.  

Gratitude, mental health, and well-being

For decades, researchers and mental health professionals have sought to understand how gratitude works and what implications this attitude might have for mental health and well-being.

For starters, gratitude can reduce stress and depression among health care professionals. Next time you see a doctor, thank him/her for the care and support you received. [1]

On a personal level, positive emotions such as gratitude can be the driving force behind self-improvement and positive change. [2]

But the benefits of gratitude extend far beyond your personal life. Recently, experts have begun to implement gratitude-based practices in organizational settings, hoping to create a healthier work environment. [3] Furthermore, researchers have discovered that employees appreciate sincere and personalized forms of gratitude. [4]   

Three practices to help you cultivate gratitude

Self-reflection

Since gratitude is a positive attitude that comes from within, the first step to cultivate it is self-reflection. In other words, you need to put everything on hold for a moment and contemplate your strengths and weaknesses.

Each of us is unique and special, and we all have something to be grateful for. You just need to find those qualities you believe are worthy of appreciation.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways in which you can practice self-reflection, from meditation and prayer to journaling or simply saying “Thanks!” to someone who has helped you.

Journaling

Journaling is one of the easiest ways to cultivate gratitude. By putting your thoughts, dreams, goals, and achievements on paper, you become aware of all those things you should be thankful for. It could be anything from a successful project to an exciting job opportunity.

You can also use the journal to express gratitude towards people who’ve helped you throughout life. In fact, experts believe that gratitude writing can significantly improve your overall mental health. [5]

A journal reminds you of all the beautiful things that have happened and will happen in your life – and that’s something you should definitely feel grateful for.

The gratitude jar

‘The gratitude jar’ is a simple exercise you can use to transform gratitude into a daily practice. All you need is – a jar or box.  

First off, make sure to personalize it. You can add ribbons, stickers, glitter, pretty much anything that will make it look interesting and ‘personal.’

At the end of each day, pick up a fresh piece of paper and write down three things/events for which you are grateful. It could be the refreshing coffee you had in the morning or maybe that cute girl/boy you saw at the mall. Fold your piece of paper and put in in the jar/box.

Whenever you feel sad, disappointed or discouraged, open the jar/box and remind yourself of all the amazing things you’ve experienced throughout your life.

All and all, gratitude is a positive emotion that helps you adopt a brighter perspective on life and approach challenges with optimism and hope.

Meta description: Gratitude is a positive emotion that fosters optimism, boosts motivation, and allows us to see the bright side of things.     

References:

[1] S.-T. P. K. J. H. M. Cheng, “Improving mental health in health care practitioners: Randomized controlled trial of a gratitude intervention.,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 83, no. 1, pp. 177-186, 2015.

[2] C. N. Armenta, M. Fritz and S. Lyubomirsky, “Functions of Positive Emotions: Gratitude as a Motivator of Self-Improvement and Positive Change,” Emotion Review, vol. 9, no. 3, 2017.

[3] R. Fehr, A. Fulmer, E. Awtrey and J. A. Miller, “The Grateful Workplace: A Multilevel Model of Gratitude in Organizations,” Academy of Management, vol. 42, no. 2, 2016.

[4] C. Webb Beck, “Perceptions of thanks in the workplace: Use, effectiveness, and dark sides of managerial gratitude,” Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 333-351, 2016.

[5] J. Y. Wong, J. Owen, N. T. Gabana, J. W. Brown, S. Mcinnis, P. Toth and L. Gilman, “Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial,” Psychotherapy Research, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 192-202, 2015.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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