Gratitude and gratefulness. We hear these terms so often in our lives though finding a definition is not as easy as it may seem. It is more than just saying thank you.
Gratitude can be seen as being one of many different things; an attitude, part of our morals and values, a habit, an emotion. It is also known to be like a feeling you get when you stop to appreciate the things you have in your life.
StopPING. It is such a key aspect. Focus on what is happening in the now. What we have. Not centering on things that have happened in the past, things that we don’t have, or what we want.
One thing about gratitude though, it can be an easy practice that we can work on which can help enhance our mental health. Practising gratitude not only makes us feel happy in the moment, but it provides us with many other benefits that link in with our mental health. Benefits such as:
- Enhancing our relationships – friends, family, partners, colleagues etc.
- Lowering our levels of depression and anxiety.
- Boosting our focus, energy levels and sleep.
- Improving our positive self-talk.
Positive self-talk is crucial when it comes to our mental health. We’ve heard the saying that it takes more muscles to smile, it’s the same with thoughts. It takes more effort (actually a conscious effort) to think positively. Our brains are wired to easily remember the negatives that occur in life – also known as a negativity bias – so any practice that can help the development of our positive self-talk is extremely important.
The good thing about bringing in a daily practice of gratitude is that there are so many different ways that it can be done. It can be easy to find something that best suits the individual. Everyone can do things that can increase how often we feel grateful. We just need to stop and pay attention to things that happen in our lives that we are grateful for and acknowledge them. It is the acknowledgement that is key to gratitude practice.
You can be grateful for the small things in life. A warm shower, food on the table, a bed to sleep in. It doesn’t always have to be something large.
How can we bring gratitude practice into our daily lives?
Gratitude journal – write down three things you are grateful for each day. This is something that you can do either at the end of the day, or the start. By starting the day with gratitude practice, it leads us to greet the day with a positive mindset. As you start to get better at the practice, you can start to bring in reasoning as to why you are grateful.
Tell someone you are grateful for them – sounds easy but do we do it enough? If someone does something for you that you are grateful for, tell them. Or even just tell someone that you are grateful for them being a part of your life. This doesn’t just have benefits for you, but also for the people you are able to express this to.
Take photos of things that make you smile and appreciate – they are good keepsakes and when times become a little tougher, they are something that you can look back on and sometimes see things that maybe you missed.
Keep a gratitude jar – this can be linked in with writing down things you are grateful for. Write down your daily gratitude on separate notes and put them in a jar. On those tough mornings or nights when you really feel those negative thoughts overtaking your mind, open the jar and pull out three things you have been grateful for.
Show your gratitude through creativity (drawing, poetry, music etc).
No matter how you choose to bring a daily practice of gratitude into your life, it needs to be something that you are comfortable with. If a daily practice is too much, try two/three times a week and slowly increase on that.
The benefits are there, and in this society we live in, where we are accustomed to wanting and feeling like we need more, stopping and being grateful for what we have is so important.
Further reading on negativity bias – https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618