Gratitude, a term synonymous with wellness and widely thrown around these days with reference to the likes of self-care and meditation, essentially refers to ‘The Art of Being Grateful’. People who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, as they spend time regularly reflecting on positive experiences, feelings and occurrences. The more you practice thinking positively by reflecting on 3-5 good things that happened in your day, the more positive thoughts will come to you naturally.
A research paper by Summer Allen, Ph.D, writer with the Greater Good Science Centre of UC Berkeley, found that research suggests gratitude isn’t simply a social construct, but has roots embedded in our evolutionary history, our brains and DNA. For example, studies have found that chimpanzees are more likely to share food with or help a chimpanzee who has groomed them earlier that day or helped them in the past.
By Tori Porter
If we’ve naturally evolved to fell gratitude, then what causes people to be ungrateful? Robert Emmons, Ph.D, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and profession of psychology at the University of California, explains that contemporary research shows that people who are ungrateful tend to be characterised by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity and an unquenchable need for admiration. Narcissists expect special favours and feel no need to pay back or forward. He says that entitlement is at the core of narcissism, feeling that ‘life owes me something,’ and so people with these traits struggle to feel grateful when they are expecting blessings to happen.
Emmons notes that “recognising that everything good in life is ultimately a gift is a fundamental truth of reality. Humility makes that recognition possible.” Once we realise that everything is a gift, we allow ourselves to be filled with tremendous gratitude.
So how can gratitude improve our wellbeing? A handful of studies suggest that more grateful people may be healthier, happier and experience lower-stress, and others suggest that scientifically designed practices to increase gratitude can improve people’s health and encourage them to adopt healthier habits.
Showing gratitude can give you a more optimistic outlook on life, improve your mood and help you to feel more connected to others as you recognise the importance of your relationships. Expressing gratitude in all relationships helps in forming closer bonds as those dear to you feel loved. Plus, the more positive you feel, the more you will look after your health. For example, increased desire to eat well and exercise can lead to higher energy levels, better sleep, a stronger immune system and overall better quality of life.
If you’ve been persuaded by infinite physical and mental benefits of gratitude, then here’s 5 ways to practice gratitude in your daily life:
1. Keep A Gratitude Journal
Keep a journal or notebook next to your bed and each morning when you wake up, or evening before you go to sleep, think about 3-5 things you’re grateful for. This can be as simple as a lovely morning coffee, the sun shining, a call from an old friend, positive feedback at work etc. By focusing on the good and what went right in your day, you’ll start to look for the positives rather than the negatives in life.
2. Start Saying Thank You More Often
Saying thank you generates a ‘feel good’ feeling between both parties. Start expressing gratitude for the small things, like your boyfriend cooking dinner, your flatmate emptying the dishwasher, for someone holding the door open or offering you a seat. When we tell people they are appreciated, we feel more grateful and the other person feels recognised and validated and this generates more positivity.
3. Notice The Beauty In Everyday
When walking outside in nature, take time to look around and be mindful. Taking in your surroundings, the sounds, the fresh air, you’ll become more grateful for what’s around you. To do this, walk a little slower, without distractions of your phone, and pay attention to your senses as you walk. What’s the weather like? Can you hear any birds? What smells are there? Be aware of each breath as you breathe in the fresh air. When your mind drifts from walking and breathing, gently guide your thoughts back and focus on your surroundings.
4. Refrain From Gossip & Negative Talk
Try not to pick out what you don’t like about other people or situations. We’ve all done it, but gossip is no good for anyone and it lowers your energy. Consciously catch yourself gossiping and then stop. The same goes for negative feelings towards situations, places, things. Change the subject of the conversation, or change the direction of your thoughts. Gossiping fuels gossip. If you stop engaging, it’s likely those around you will feel less comfortable doing so too.
5. Pay Compliments To Those Around You
On the note above, try and use positive language as much as possible. When you see something you like, for example if you like someone’s outfit or you think they’re beautiful, tell them. Compliments help us communicate the appreciation we have for others. Whether a friend or a stranger, compliments are scientifically shown to make us feel good.