Gratitude is getting quite a bit of hype these days, yet in my practice I find that few people take the time to discover what it is, and how it will benefit their lives.
What exactly is gratitude? Gratitude is being present and paying attention to what we appreciate, and value in our life – what makes us smile and relax. It can also make us feel joy, contentment, or feel connected to others, socially and intimately. It has been shown in many studies to be a clinically relevant state that enhances our well-being (Wood, Froh and Geraghty, 2010).
It is easy to to get into the habit of focusing on problems, or what one doesn’t have. This produces anxiety, depression and low self - esteem. When we are experiencing these negative emotions, it is much more difficult to figure out healthy solutions or make good choices in our daily lives.
There have been numerous studies done to measure the value of gratitude. As a trait, gratitude involves an orientation toward noticing the positive in life – by paying attention. This includes practicing thankfulness to others, as well as appreciating what we do have. These studies have shown that gratitude relates to more positive and beneficial coping, as well as better sleep (Wood, et al., 2010).
Recently, studies looking at chronic illness and the practice of gratitude have found significantly less depression, as well as better coping skills and medical compliance in people who posses the trait of gratitude (Sirois & Wood, 2017). It is evidence based that practicing gratitude is a life enhancer.
How to Practice Gratitude
Make time throughout the day to focus on what you appreciate right now, in the moment, and allow yourself to experience the positive feelings that come about.
Do something or give something to someone else. Reach out and contribute. Thank someone for giving to you. Be generous.
Option: journal three things, every day, what you are grateful for – big or small. This also develops the good habits of paying attention and focusing, which make for a more successful life.