Research over the last few years has demonstrated the many wellness benefits of gratitude. Keeping our eyes peeled for the positive reduces depression, increases our wellbeing, makes us happier, it also changes our brain. Heres how.
What is Gratitude?
Psychologist Robert Emmons describes gratitude as “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
When we feel gratitude we connect to to something outside of ourselves, to a greater force. We’re also able to better connect with others. It’s about more than possessions or what we have. Feeling grateful is possible on a much deeper level. It’s not just a feel good thing when we talk about gratitude. Feeling grateful can change our lives.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Positive emotions are good for us. Positive psychology has consistently demonstrated that regular feelings of gratitude;
- Reduces stress
- Boost our decision making ability
- Decrease depression
- Have a snowball effect upon other positive emotions
- Build our relationships with others
- Result in greater happiness
The link between deep gratitude, emotional and physical wellbeing is clear. But how do we create more gratitude in our lives?
How to Cultivate Gratitude: Practising Mindful Gratitude
First of all, we need to notice what’s going on around us, to recognise those moments of appreciation. That’s where mindfulness comes in. Start to pay attention to all of the things that you might ordinarily take for granted; good health, sunrise, spring blossom, a stunning view, a decent night’s sleep, a beautiful sunny day, time to yourself or a peaceful moment. Shining the light of awareness on these moments that we might otherwise ignore illuminates countless opportunities for gratitude.
Isn’t it just looking for the good?
Nope. Mindful gratitude includes bringing your focus to everything in your life including difficult or painful moments. Recognising these experiences as sources of profound learning can also provide deep sources of gratitude. It also helps avoid falling into the trap of feeling out of control.
Building your Gratitude Practice
Think of building gratitude in the same way you’d build any other muscle in your body – the more you do it, the easier and stronger it gets. It’s like going to the gym for your mind.
Say thank you. Whether it’s by thank you note, email, or a simple, silent thank you in your head saying thank you is a major gratitude boosting tool. Get into the habit of mindfully looking for things to say thank you for on a regular basis. If you can do it person, even better (you’ll be building relationships at the same time).
Meditate. Use the present moment to focus upon what you’re grateful for as it is happening. Bring your awareness to your experience without judging it. If you’re listening to music, enjoying the first spring blossoms or out in a park, savour that moment, really bring your attention to how it feels, right here, right now.
Keep a Gratitude Journal. Each day keep a journal of three to five things that you’re grateful for. Mindfully noticing those moments of gratitude throughout the day and then recording them will help you to rewire your brain for gratitude. It’s also a great way to reflect upon your past experiences of gratitude if you’ve had a bad day and everything feels a bit ‘meh’. You can flick through your journal and remind yourself that there is good in your life.
Want to know more about gratitude, positive psychology or mindfulness? Take a look at our huge range of free resources. We also run international mindfulness courses, mindfulness at work training as well as wellbeing and resilience masterclass training programmes.
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