Gratitude is a bit of a buzz word but what’s behind it? Is it just for the naturally grateful or can the rest of us get something out of it too?
There have been many studies in diverse populations where a large group is surveyed extensively and then randomly assigned into three groups to engage in a written activity, from just once to multiple times a week (depending on the study). The first group keeps a general diary, the second write down all the problems of the week and the final group write down all the things they are thankful for. After the selected period of time participants are re-surveyed. Interestingly researchers find that the gratitude groups improve on all measures surveyed.
From sixth-graders to teens and the general adult population engaging in a regular practice of gratitude increases energy, optimism and social connection. The participants reported they were happier, slept better and felt healthier. They had better grades and work outcomes. For the adults they had less alcoholism, less greed and envy and less depression. It seems to good to be true!
There is something to be said about our cultures addiction to complaining. It appears to be keeping us down and the cycle continues. Perhaps we should all try a little gratitude?
Sometimes life is extraordinarily hard. The stress of work, relationships, tragedy and general life struggles pile up leaving us slumped and wondering what to be grateful for. There are a few tricks I’ve learnt to find opportunities for gratefulness.
- Take a mini-holiday. Take 20 minutes out of your day to have a bath, to watch the sea, to be in nature, to visit a good friend and focus on being in that pleasurable environment. It’s 20 minutes to be grateful for.
- Look for the silver lining. It’s cliche and you might have to look hard but there usually a silver lining. It is making the choice to turn stressors into growth and difficulties into opportunities.
- Writing a gratitude letter. Perhaps the most significant effect of gratitude is on our relationships. It’s one thing to acknowledge your gratefulness of another to yourself, it is the next step acknowledge to the other person that you appreciate them. I challenge you to give it a genuine try, you might be surprised.
Whether you write your blessings down nightly or weekly, the effect is the same. Shifting your mindset to gratitude is worthwhile for all of us.