”When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you”
Gratitude has received a lot of media attention of late, in the yoga world and in the realms of positive psychology. In this blog article I will take a look at what gratitude is, why its so good for us to practice, and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives.
Definition of gratitude
Gratitude is ‘the quality of being thankful: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness’.
Put simply, gratitude is feeling thankful for what one already has in life, rather than always focusing on what is lacking. It is a typical mindset of us humans, to strive towards our goals, to seek more wealth and success and just simply to have more than we currently have. And this is by no means a bad thing. It is wonderful to have goals to work towards.
Gratitude is stopping for a moment to realise how far you have already come. To realise how much you already have. To appreciate the people you have around you. Expressing gratitude allows us to stop for a moment and express thanks for what already is.
The Benefits of a Gratitude Practice
There are many more, but here are 3 of the most important benefits of gratitude.
1) People with an attitude of gratitude experience lower levels of stress
In a study by McCraty and colleagues (1998) 45 adults were taught gratitude techniques to cultivate appreciation and other positive emotions. McCraty found that there was a 23% mean reduction (across all participants) in the stress hormone cortisol.
2) Increases feelings of wellbeing
Research by Psychologist Robert Emmons shows that keeping a gratitude journal, where by participants noted down brief reflections of moments they were grateful for during the day, dramatically increased feelings of wellbeing and life satisfaction reported by the participants.
3) Increases Happiness
In a study by Seligman, Steen and Peterson (2005) participants were given one week to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had been very kind to them, but they had never properly thanked. The results showed that those who participating in the letter writing exercise reported feeling more happiness in the one month following the exercise the the control group, who didn’t partake in the exercise.
How do I practice gratitude?
Sounds great right?! So how do you go about bringing gratitude into your daily life?
Keep a gratitude journal.
You don’t need to go into huge amounts of detail, just note down 5 things everyday before you go to sleep that you are grateful for. Research shows that it is more effective if you are very specific about things that you are grateful for e.g. rather than just writing ‘my family’ everyday, you write ‘I am grateful that my family were all together for dinner this evening’. Be specific about things you are grateful for in the last 24 hours since your last entry. It can be anything, the delicious food you ate, a chat you had with a friend, time for a bath.. any simple but beautiful moment from your day that made your day that much better. Let’s face it, some days aren’t much different from the next and you may feel that it’s hard to find something specific to be grateful for. So you express gratitude for broader things then, your health, the fact that you can breathe, the sunshine. There is always some beauty to find, we just need to train the mind to find it.
Vocalise your gratitude.
Tell the special people in your life that you are grateful for them. They don’t have to do anything in particular, but every now and again just say thank you. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for being in my life. Tell them something specific that you love about them. Everyone loves to feel appreciated and you will feel so good saying it too.
If someone does something kind for you, be grateful in the moment. Acknowledge their kind actions and thank them on the spot. If you forget, make sure you thank them later.
Practice present moment gratitude.
Throughout the day, practice present moment gratitude. When there is a moment that you feel grateful for, whether it’s your morning cuppa or your evening meal, acknowledge fully as you experience it. Becoming more mindful of these moments throughout the day, as they arise, will give us a greater sense of well being and life satisfaction.
Remember, most of us aren’t naturally grateful (unless we have been taught from an early age!). This is something we have to re-learn and re-wire our brain to do. Keep up a regular daily practice, however small, and see how you feel after a few weeks.
And I would like to say thank you to all of you for reading my article, to my students for being a constant source of inspiration to me and to the universe, for allowing me to do what I love! Please get in touch here if you have any questions, or leave a comment below.