One of the first few articles we posted on this blog was on expressing gratitude towards other people. But apart from this, when was the last time that you remembered to be grateful for the good things that exist in your own life?
Gratitude means being mindful of our blessings, our privileges and life in general. In this indefinite pursuit of happiness that is mostly like a mirage, how often do we spare a minute to be grateful for what we already have at this very moment? Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Being aware of what we already have instead of what we do not immediately changes our mental state. Take for example, the statement: “I’m tired of staying in. It is too much. I was supposed to apply for a new job around this time and now I’m stuck with nothing.” This is a pretty negative statement, right? It also shows hard you’re being on yourself. Look at this statement now; “It sure is hard, but I’m glad that I’m getting the chance to stay in and protect myself.” How does that feel?
That said, it’s important to remember that being grateful does not mean you have to negate any other difficulties you are going through. You can be grateful and disappointed at the same time. It isn’t a black and white picture.
Positive psychology research has shown that gratitude touches many aspects of our lives including our emotions, personality, social dynamics, career success and health. All of these can contribute to increasing our basic happiness. When we feel gratitude, our brains release oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone. This hormone, in turn, has astounding benefits on our physical and psychological health- such as improving the quality of sleep, improving immunity, improving our social life, making us more resistant, reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing our relationship with ourselves and others, to name a few. If we practice this technique daily, it rewires our brain structure in such a way that in any situation, the automated response is to look at the positive side of things. So, this helps us deal with the concerned situation better.
The benefits of gratitude are slow to feel, because it is a gradual process. But once you get into the habit of practicing daily gratitude, the benefit that comes from it are long lasting and lingering. Studies also show that people who are hooked onto practicing this technique of gratitude get ‘addicted’ to it, and what once seemed like a technique that required a lot of practice and effort becomes automatic along with a positive feeling, that stays.
Gratitude is not a natural inclination and takes time, effort, and discipline to remind ourselves of the many reasons we can be grateful. But it is an exercise well worth the discomfort and challenge.
A friendly tip from me for starters would be to begin by writing one thing daily that you feel thankful for. It can be as simple as getting up from bed or waking up in the morning. Give yourself a period of 21 days to practice this, after which you can vary your gratitude number as you like; say 3,5,10, and so on. Even if you need to write the same thing daily, it is okay. It does not have to be a different thing every day. You can be thankful for the same thing for the rest of your life! It’s just that acknowledging all the different things that you are grateful for in your life make this practice all the more interesting and save you of exhaustion due to the mundane task that it might otherwise turn out to be.
To learn more about the benefits of gratitude practice, you can check out the links below:
I am a practicing psychologist. I’m interested in art and design. Mandala art is my stress buster. I’m also into the upcoming field of fashion psychology. Binge watching, reading, engaging with art and listening to music are my current pastimes. Oh, and adding new places to visit in my travel bucket list too can be counted!