Author: Lucie Ironman, Psychological Wellbeing Facilitator, Vita Health Group.
A definition of gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”
The past 2 years have been difficult for each and every one of us, and makes this world gratitude day particularly significant. Times have been tough, and it could be that we have experienced a time where we have found it difficult to experience positive thoughts or experience a sense of joy or happiness. Many of us now find ourselves focusing on things that we pre-pandemic wouldn’t have thought twice about and we perhaps find ourselves having the upmost gratitude for ‘the little things’. Perhaps, walking the dog more than once a day, being able to meet a friend for a coffee, or hugging a loved one. Things that perhaps, once, we would have been very quick to take for granted. With the world evolving quickly around us, it is important that we don’t lose sight of this gratitude and continue to recognise the things we continue to be grateful for.
Gratitude isn’t about finding the happiest thing in your day to focus on or going out of your way to make a positive event happen. Gratitude is about recognition. Recognising something that in this very moment we have to be grateful for. Whether it is electricity to boil the kettle, or air in our lungs, it is about trying to find something that we are thankful for in the here and now.
Research shows that gratitude has a positive effect on our mental health and can lower rates of stress and depression. It also helps to improve relationships with others and increase resilience to negative emotions. It may seem impossible when times are at their most difficult, but with practice, gratitude can help us through the toughest of times.
It doesn’t have to break the time bank to practice gratitude, and with the evidence base to support the psychological impact, it is time well spent, both for us, and for the people around us.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
Write down something that you are grateful for and why, whilst you are writing this down take time to notice the emotions you feel when you think of this. It can be a large event such as a new baby in the family, or a small event such as having time to have a morning cup of tea. Aim to write down 5-10 things down at a time. Find a rhythm for you, some people like to do this daily, some people weekly, cater this to your own needs.
Show your appreciation for others, this could be by having a conversation with someone and thanking them for their support, it could be sending an email to your team to thank them for their tireless hard work or making a loved one their morning cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to cost the world, but by expressing gratitude through acts of kindness, helps to put a smile on someone else’s face but also releases endorphins for ourselves. You might end up being their reason to be grateful today!
Find a jar and write down 3 things per day that you are grateful for to put into the jar. It is helpful in those moments but can also be helpful to look through them if things are feeling difficult. It can be fun to decorate the jar too, make it a nice addition to your home or office!
If you are particularly creative, why not add gratitude leaves to a tree or petals to a flower to be able to visually see the things you are grateful for. This could be a nice activity to do with children.
Mindfulness is proven help with overall wellbeing and by doing specific gratitude mindfulness this helps to focus and visualise things we are grateful for. There are many guided gratitude mindfulness techniques available online.
There are also some great gratitude apps that can help too!
If there is one time to start practicing gratitude it is right now, on world gratitude day, stop and think of 3 things that you’re grateful for right now….