Gratitude is associated with happiness and is a very powerful human emotion. There have been studies that individuals that continuously and consciously count their blessings tend to experience better sleep, feel happier, and even have stronger immune systems. The benefits of practising gratitude regularly don’t just benefit your psychological and physical wellbeing, but it can also have profound effects on your relationships. A simple thank you to a stranger holding open the door for us or even thanking a work colleague for their help can help us acknowledge other people’s contributions that can often lead to new opportunities. Who have you thanked today?
For many years, the practice of gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, but it also can be utilized as a major component for overcoming trauma. Positive emotions decrease the focus of negative emotions. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social discovered that practising gratitude was a huge contributor to the resilience of US citizens after the terrorist attacks on September 9th, 2001. Practising gratitude can help foster resilience, even in the worst of times. Several polls after the attack state that 60% of Americans reported that their relationships strengthened, and had an increase of affection for family and loved ones. Another study in 2006 published in Behavior Research and Therapy reported that Vietnam War veterans who practised regular gratitude experienced a lower rate of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Many people find it useful to start a daily gratitude journal where you can write down everything that you are thankful for that day. This helps focuses your attention on the positives in our lives and disconnects us from negative emotions. We may constantly write down that we are grateful for our family, but we need to exactly identify what it is about them that we are thankful for. Did your partner surprise you with a bunch of flowers? Did you receive a long-awaited phone call from a distant relative? Did a family member invite you over for tea? By focusing on specifics and new feelings of gratitude it can open us up to the world around us and intensely boost our gratitude practice. There is something or someone in everyone’s lives that you can be thankful for. In addition to the gratitude journal, writing a gratitude letter to someone that has positively impacted your life that you haven’t properly thanked can also be a useful way to practice gratitude.
We can also show gratitude towards ourselves. When we don’t love and appreciate ourselves, how can we possibly feel love and appreciation towards others or the world around us? By not appreciating ourselves, we can perceive the world around us full of lack because of the lack and dissatisfaction we feel inside of ourselves. Therefore we constantly look for external happiness that will never be able to satisfy our needs. Self-appreciation is a practice of appreciating yourself. Be thankful for your breath, the blood in your veins, your skin, hair, natural talents, and personality traits. You will soon stop looking elsewhere for your happiness when you realize how remarkable your own body is. Next time you look towards scalding yourself for something you got wrong, remember all of the times you have got it right. Showing appreciation towards yourself can be as simple as talking to yourself kinder.
By Rachel at Cheswold Park Hospital