Gratitude is becoming an increasingly popular topic on social media, courses and in practice, but why? Is it just a fad? Absolutely not.
Gratitude is the act of being thankful, pleased and showing appreciation. This may be in the form of expressing gratitude directly to others, or simply consciously acknowledging events, objects and individuals that you are grateful for.
The power of “gratitude interventions” have been extensively researched for a number of years. Generalised gratitude studies have found that those who “count blessings” are more able to find positive qualities in those around them, as well as reduced stress, decreases in facial tension, lower depression scores, increased creativity, improved physical activity and reduced heart rate variability, to name but a few (references available on request).
Gratitude is zero-cost, readily available to all, and able to be practised at any time. I for one cannot name much else with so many benefits and free of charge, so why aren’t we doing it all the time?
“Where do I start?”
Take imperfect action. Many people hold back from consciously practising gratitude as they feel like it will be an upheaval to their routine. It doesn’t have to be. Sometimes we just have to do it. You can start with actively thanking colleagues, friends and families for things that they have done. Be the change in your practice, people will soon follow. Kind words cost nothing.
Take a moment to appreciate what you’re grateful for when you wake up. That negative voice in our heads is so quick to use all of our energy in the mornings on all of the terrible things it tries to forecast for the day, and will not draw your attention to gratitude, until you potentially lose the things you had.
Journaling is one of the most studied gratitude interventions, and this simply involves noting down things that you are grateful for, and ideally why. Just three to five things. This does not need to be something new every day, often the “small” things we appreciate would be the huge things if they were gone. These can be work based such as “I’m grateful that Sarah switched shifts with me, as I know she didn’t have to, but it meant I could still go to the wedding that weekend when I had no holidays left to take.” Equally, it can be home life based “I’m so grateful that I have a roof over my head, when I know that so many others don’t.”
“But I don’t have time”
Human beings are a goal driven species. We often think that we are only doing something successfully if we are going it every single day. That negative voice in our heads will tell us we don’t have time to do it, then when we don’t do it, it tells us that we are useless and can’t do it. That’s certainly a familiar scenario to me. The good news is that many of the studies found that frequencies of once to twice weekly were still effective timings for journaling and yielded significant results. You don’t need to journal every day.
“I don’t have anything to be grateful for”
There is always something, honestly. The times when we need gratitude the most, are when it feels like we want to do it the least. Having food and running water, being alive and electricity. That’s always a good starting point.
How long does it take to see results?
Studies have showed improvements from twice weekly journaling in just four weeks. That’s just eight journal entries.
Who’s ready to go out and practice gratitude?