Thanksgiving just went through last week, and although it is a holiday mainly celebrated in North America, the concept behind it is one that the whole world can join and celebrate.
This blogpost focuses on the importance of gratitude for wellbeing. Read along and find out how this synergy becomes a healthy balance in the path to self-care!
Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation are human emotions that can provide an overall positive feeling in a person. This general hypothesis was the focus of some scientific investigations. Results suggest that gratitude appears to be one component, among many others, in the building of a person’s wellbeing.
Furthermore, expressing gratitude may include some extra benefits like an increase in positive emotions and a greater appreciation of good experiences. Also, one may notice better health, a boost to deal with diversity, and great support for building strong relationships.
What is Gratitude?
Do you know that feeling, when you’re extremely grateful after you’ve lost your phone and someone found it and gave it back to you? That emotion of extreme relief going through your whole body, those sparks of happiness that make you appreciative of something you hadn’t even thought about before. That is gratitude.
Properly, gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, and it covers various meanings, including grace, graciousness, and gratefulness. It is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself, a general state of thankfulness.
How does one feel gratitude? The expression comes out when there’s a feeling of appreciation for something that is received, which can be a tangible or intangible thing. Thankfulness is being able to recognize and acknowledge the goodness in life; not just things received from someone, but also experiences lived, such as when you’re on holiday and enjoying the food and the beautiful views.
According to the article Giving thanks can make you happier, “people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals- whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Linking Gratitude and Wellbeing
It seems logical that feeling grateful gives a positive feeling in return, and therefore contributes to one’s well being. However, to be able to scientifically support the association, psychotherapy experts have taken this “logical” idea into research.
Randy A. Sansone, MD, and Lori A. Sansone, MD, in their publication Gratitude and Well Being- The Benefits of Appreciation, review different studies, which indicate that gratitude is associated with an enhanced sense of personal well being. Based on this analysis, they give an overview of the approaches to gratitude and suggest techniques for enhancing the feeling of gratitude.
Although every investigation applied different methods, all of them intended to compare scenarios where gratitude was practiced, from situations where no feeling of gratefulness was required.
For example, one of the researches mentioned divided participants into three groups. The first one was asked to journal daily or weekly about negative events; the second one about the things for which they were grateful, and the third one about neutral life events. After the experiment, researchers found an evident higher wellbeing on the gratitude study group in comparison to the other two groups.
This experiment sounds completely logical because when I reflect on positive things I’m thankful for, I feel happier and automatically think less of negative things. When you’re constantly appreciating concepts you’re thankful for in your mind, there’s no room for negative thoughts.
In the same way, the authors analyze another four publications on gratitude, which show a clear association between gratitude and well being. However, there were also some investigators who did not confirm the same link.
Randy and Lori A. Sansone settled that “there are conditions or circumstances that temper the association between gratitude and well being.” This conclusion opens the door to many future investigations on the subject.
If you are interested in starting the constant practice of gratitude, you can try different approaches to it:
→ Write thank-you notes. This helps nurture relationships and makes you happy in the process. Writing one to yourself occasionally, also is a great idea.
→ Extend mental thank-yous. You don’t have to personally express gratitude. Just think about someone who has done something you’re grateful for, and mentally say thank you.
→ Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down appreciative thoughts makes a good habit for self-awareness and personal growth.
→ Count your blessings. Reflect on your current life and identify a given number of blessings you are grateful for, associating them with the way they make you feel in the moment.
→ Meditate. Mindfulness meditation helps to focus on the present moment, and you can aim this concentration on what you’re thankful for.
→ Keep a gratitude jar. Always have small pieces of paper available to take up every day and write about one thing that you are grateful for on that specific day. As the jar fills up, you will feel more and more gratitude within. Also, seeing all those emotions of gratitude will make you realize how much you have to be thankful for in life.
Time to start giving Thanks!
Only future research can confirm the actual potential benefits and enhancement of gratitude. In the meantime, there’s no harm to checking in with ourselves and reflecting on the many blessings we enjoy.
Even more, take it to the next step and start switching irritating thoughts into positive ones, for example, the rain that ruins your day out, BUT is good for the trees.
There’s always something big or small to be thankful for. So, I ask you, my insightful reader, what makes YOU feel grateful today?