With the global coronavirus pandemic leading to uncertainty and unpredictable time with things changing so quickly, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed and anxious. One of the most powerful ways to rewire your brain for more joy and less stress is to focus on gratitude.
Most of us know it’s important to express thanks to the people who help us, or silently acknowledge the things we are grateful for in life. Research in Positive Psychology has consistently found that Practicing gratitude has far-reaching effects, from improving our mental health, happiness, satisfaction with life, to boosting our relationships with others.
What are the top two benefits of practising gratitude?
It creates positive emotions. Feeling grateful can broaden your mind and create positive cycles of thinking and behaving in healthy, positive ways. It compensates for our mind’s natural tendency to focus on threats, worries, and negative aspects of life. For example, in times of stress and anxiety, simply writing gratitude diaries can lift our mood and bring happiness to us each day. Relevant research confirms that gratitude effectively improves happiness and reduces depression.
It strengthens our relationships. Whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can bring us closer to people and help us win new friends. In particular, gratitude practice can make a difference in intimate relationships, some psychologists have linked one’s internal sense of gratitude towards a partner to the partner’s experience of marital satisfaction over time as well as one’s own.
How to Practice Gratitude
There two key components of practising gratitude:
Affirmation of the good things or goodness we’ve received
Acknowledgement of the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness
We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.
Below you will find some exercises for building upon gratitude.
Keep a Gratitude Journal.
Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things you enjoy. Recalling moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable theme of gratefulness into your life.
Try a 5-minute appreciation and gratitude meditation
Find a quiet time in the morning or evening for gratitude meditation. After taking a few deep breaths and relax deeply, reflect on all the things you’re grateful for, it can be loved ones, sunshine, the tasty dinner you had that evening whatever comes to mind.
As each gratitude appears, visualize yourself saying the words thank you to each. Try to make the image and feel as real as you can.
Then, allow the feeling of deep gratitude to come into your body and enjoy the pleasure. You can remain in this relaxed state as long as you like.
If you’d like some guidance, check out the Headspace APP: Headspace on Appreciation
To sum up, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day, it doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time. Being able to be appreciative of what is good in life, despite the challenges, is a useful skill in promoting overall well-being.