The Importance of Practicing Gratitude
Gratitude is both a way of thinking and a way of doing. By definition, it’s the quality of being thankful, as well as the readiness and willingness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. And by practicing gratitude, we open ourselves up to being more connected, more happy and more healthy.
Finding the Good
According to American psychologist Robert Emmons, there are two parts to gratitude. Firstly, it’s “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received,” he says. While this doesn’t overwrite challenges or frustrations in our lives, it allows us to look at our lives wholly and to always find balance and goodness. Finding good in the world helps us to feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, deal with adversity and even improve mental and physical health.
Becoming More Connected
Secondly, says Emmons, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” In this way, Emmons describes gratitude as a “relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” Therefore, practicing gratitude allows us to feel more connected with our surroundings, whether that be nature, our spirituality or the people in our lives. This in turn leads to stronger, more positive relationships.
So how do we cultivate and strengthen our practice of gratitude?
First, we must notice our surroundings. What or who makes you feel good? This reflection can happen in-the-moment throughout your daily experiences, or later when you have a private moment to yourself for meditation. Many experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal and regularly listing things you’re grateful for.
Savor and absorb the things for which you’re grateful. Once you acknowledge the good things in your life, make sure you enjoy those experiences to the fullest and treat them with the utmost appreciation.
And finally, express your gratitude. Happiness is best when shared — and everyone likes to feel appreciated. Take the time to write a thank you note or voice your gratitude verbally.
We all experience gratitude, but taking the time to acknowledge the feeling and become more intentional with how we engage with it and share with others will make all the difference in the world.