The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Did you know that it is impossible to be unhappy and grateful at the same time? In positive psychology, the practice of being grateful is strongly associated with greater levels of happiness. Gratitude has changed from being some light and fluffy concept that is nice to do, to being recognised as a valuable wellbeing tool, backed by scientific research that can make a positive difference to your day.
3 positive benefits of gratitude as researched by science are:
1) Increased mental resilience: Research shows that being grateful reduces the effect of stress and can help to overcome trauma. Appreciating what you have even in the worst of times, builds mental strength. For example, a study found that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, gratitude was a major factor in building resilience. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003)
2) Improved self-esteem: A significant contributor towards low self-esteem is social comparison, such as resentment towards people who have more money or better jobs. Grateful people are instead able to appreciate other peoples accomplishments and are happier, as they are more concerned with companionship than social comparison. (Texas A&M University study, 2015)
3) Sleeping better: Writing for 15 minutes in a gratitude journal, just before you go to sleep can help you to sleep better and for longer, according to studies. (Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2011) One of the things I love about practicing gratitude, is that it is also an exercise in mindfulness. Rather than becoming a victim of unwanted or negative thoughts, YOU are choosing instead what your mind is focusing on. You are choosing thoughts which are positive and life-enhancing. When you practice gratitude, you are exercising your power of intent, building the positive “vibes” in your life.
Simple ways to practice gratitude are:
1) Focus on 5 things you are grateful for while traveling home from work. This can be in your car, on the bus or while walking home. Practicing gratitude can be a wonderful segway from work—by focusing on all the things you appreciated during the day—creating a beautiful energy when you arrive home.
2) Keep a daily gratitude journal, this is one of my personal favourites as I find writing relaxing and a great way to unwind before bed, as I focus on my day and all it’s wonderful gifts.
3) Let someone know with heartfelt words or a small gift how much they’re appreciated.
4) Viewing the “negative times” as valuable lessons. What are those lessons—the gifts in strange wrapping paper—that you didn’t understand at the time, however, are grateful for now?
5) Make a phone call to a friend you know is having a tough time. They probably don’t need advice unless they ask for it, however, just letting them know you are “there for them” can be incredibly supportive and make a difference.
Based the positive difference that gratitude makes—Blisspot has just released a gratitude journal—as part of the Blisspot Wellbeing dashboard. Discover more about this below. I have practiced my life both ways: with and without a gratitude ritual. At our previous office, we even had a gratitude wall where our team posted on bright coloured pieces of paper illustrations and words about things they were grateful for. It made you feel good just to look at it. Based on my experience, I now practice gratitude daily, as the small amount of time it takes, compared to the benefits, are well worth it.