Can acknowledging what we’re grateful for boost our wellbeing?
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”- William Arthur Ward
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia. Depending on the use of the word it has meanings such as grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude helps people place their focus on what is good in their life rather than what they’re lacking. By expressing gratitude, people often recognize the aspects of their life where goodness is provided outside of themselves. This can be the people in their lives, nature, etc.
Research in Positive Psychology has shown that gratitude may be associated with greater happiness. Expressing gratitude helps people deal with adversity, build healthier relationships, improves their health and allows them to feel more positive emotions (Michael Craig Miller, 2011)
In 2005, researcher and Psychologist Martin Seligman tested the effects of different Positive Psychology interventions among 411 people. The results showed the biggest improvement in happiness was when the volunteers were asked to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to a person who had been kind to them, to whom they never had the chance to properly show thanks.
Relationships are one of the ultimate factors when it comes to overall wellbeing. Research shows that couples who took the time to express gratitude for their partner felt more positive towards each other. More interesting is that they also felt more comfortable speaking openly and expressing concerns in their relationship. (Michael Craig Miller, 2011)
Now that you know a bit more about the science of gratitude, can you find a moment to stop and focus on what you’re grateful for?
Some people are naturally able to express gratitude, whereas it can be more difficult for others. To help you, we’ve put together a few ideas of ways you can express gratitude!
- Gratitude Letter– Write a letter to someone who has been kind to you. Whether you give this person the letter or not is entirely up to you! You will reap the benefits purely expressing the emotion.
- Gratitude Journal– Keep a journal where you can write down the gifts you received that day. This can be as simple as a passing smile or a coffee a friend bought for you. Sharing these with a loved one enhances the experience.
- Gratitude Jar– Keep a jar in your home where each family member can write on a note one thing they’re grateful for, fold it and place it in the jar. For example, expressing thanks for the meal mum cooked or a hug from dad.
- Meditate– A gratitude meditation can help you recognize the things in your life you may be forgetting to appreciate such as your senses! Here’s one to try out https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_meditation
- Count your Blessings– Set aside a time regularly to think about the week that’s passed and make note of the things that you are grateful for. Your list doesn’t need to be long but focuses on the things that were the most meaningful for you.
- Reach Out– If writing a letter isn’t comfortable, reach out to someone who was kind to you that week and express thanks for their kindness.
- Give Thanks to Yourself– We often forget to give thanks to ourselves. Our mind, body and soul allow us to experience the life we live, so take a moment to give thanks to you.
Lambert, N., & Fincham, F. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 11(1), 52-60. doi: 10.1037/a0021557
Michael Craig Miller, M. (2011). In praise of gratitude – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved 17 November 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/in-praise-of-gratitude-201211215561
Team, S. (2020). The science behind gratitude. Retrieved 17 November 2020, from https://blog.smilingmind.com.au/the-science-behind-gratitude