“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. “ Melody Beattie
In any civil society being appreciative and saying thank you is an important social courtesy. We are being conditioned to think that this is how gratitude should be expressed. What we haven’t been taught however is that gratitude felt rather than said is actually a powerful tool and one that fosters resilience, boosts self-esteem, increases happiness, improves physical health, and helps us create more fulfilling relationships.
Thankfullness isn’t about positive thinking or seeing things better than they are. It doesn’t encourage denying emotions that come up for us when we are feeling sad or disappointed. Rather, being grateful is about taking the focus out of a single leave and seeing the whole tree for what it is. It’s about putting life into perspective.
We tend to be grateful for big achievements and exciting events, overlooking the small things we are getting for free every day - the ability to love and be loved, the capacity to dream, imagine, create, the double rainbows, the full moons, the true human connection, the experience of growing up, ageing and dying. These joys and sorrows can’t be purchased, borrowed or won.
Gratitude is a mindset. It begins with the simple realisation that we are alive, that we have the privilege of experiencing life. It also reflects deeper understanding and appreciation of the various uncertainties we must accept as a natural part of life.
Our culture promotes the concept of being independent and self-sufficient as a measure of success. Thankful people think differently. They see the world as a living organism where everything and everyone is connected. They are not afraid of being dependent on others. In fact, they realise that very often we are at the mercy of circumstances and being dependent means being human.
Thankfullness is not just a comforting concept. A lot of well-designed studies have been published to prove the actual benefits of being grateful.
1. Gratitude improves health and wellbeing.
Science shows that gratitude strengthens our immune system and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. In a study published in Personality Differences, researchers were looking at how gratitude may be associated with healthy lifestyle. Scientists concluded that grateful people tend to exercise more often, attend regular check-ups and are more skilful in coping with toxic emotions than those who don't practice gratitude.
2. Gratitude enhances empathy and lowers the levels of aggression.
A study from Kentucky University has revealed that grateful people are more sensitive; they show more empathy toward others and are less likely to seek revenge. In result, they have a higher level of happiness and lower risk of depression.
3. Gratitude improves our sleep.
A study published in Applied Psychology has shown that keeping a gratitude journal helps us sleep longer and better. Writing down a few things we are grateful for before bed time quiets the mind and helps us fall asleep quicker.
4. Gratitude raises self-esteem.
Our self-esteem is related to social comparisons. In other words, the more we compare ourselves to others, the lower the self-esteem. A few studies have found that gratitude increases self-esteem by reducing social comparisons. Grateful people have the capacity to acknowledge and appreciate others for their accomplishments which improves their relationships and raises their self-esteem.
5. Gratitude fosters resilience.
Scientists also say that grateful people cope better with adversities and are more likely to overcome traumas. Researchers from Pennsylvania University concluded that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude had a lower risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thankfulness is a skill that can be learnt and mastered. That’s why even those who haven’t been practicing before, have a chance to grow their exquisite thankful garden within themselves. Feel gratitude for every thoughtful gesture, for the clouds above your head and the wind against your face. Do one small, generous thing for each member of your family.
Express your admiration for someone’s talents or character traits and truly listen, even when your grandmother is telling you again the same old story.