Put simply, gratitude is the emotion of thankfulness we feel whenever something beneficial happens. Commonly, people express their gratitude to one another as a courtesy for everyday interactions by simply saying, 'thank you'. And yet, gratitude goes far beyond these social niceties. By expressing it to ourselves – as well as others – a greater sense of overall thankfulness can develop. This, in turn, can lead to a better sense of proportion and focus on the things we should be most thankful for. Like any other psychological practice, it takes time to develop, but it can alter our state of mind and even the ways our brains are wired. By showing more gratitude, we are really helping ourselves as well as those around us.
Why is gratitude important?
As a social lubricant, gratitude means that people feel appreciated whenever even a cursory mention of gratitude is made. However, a greater display of gratitude, such as making a 'thank you' card or buying a gift can have a much more profound effect. This is because people often feel as though they are not appreciated or, at least, under-appreciated. Moreover, when we start to think about the things we are grateful for, gratitude moves into another area. By being more grateful, you can improve your mental health and even find that you sleep better as a result. In other words, it can act as a psychological tool to improve well-being.
How does gratitude help with well-being?
Gratitude assists with improving mental well-being in three ways. Firstly, it has a social impact. By showing more thankfulness so others will reciprocate, something which leads to a greater sense of happiness. Secondly, gratitude benefits your emotional state. It means less negative feelings of envy if you are thankful for what you have and helps you to feel more resilient and relaxed. Again, this leads to greater happiness. Finally, greater gratitude can help to shape personality traits. By being more grateful, you will end up being less materialistic and self-centred as well as developing better optimism. All of which results in greater all-round happiness and well-being, too.
Tips for being more grateful
You can show your thankfulness in new ways by just changing your habits. Look someone in the eye when you thank them or shake their hand to affirm your gratitude. Spend five minutes each day before meditating focussing on the things in life you are grateful for. Equally, you might write a list of the happy things that make you feel thankful and get it out from time-to-time to read it or even add to it.
Can gratitude be taught?
Remember that being grateful is a skill we learn. If we practice it enough, then it can become second nature but which, nevertheless, we continue to benefit from.
We all have ups and downs, and sometimes it can be really difficult to see the rainbow on the other side. Maybe life keeps throwing your lemons, maybe you're not feeling very well, or maybe it's just ...