A lot of people think that being grateful is only about saying thank you when someone does something nice for them. However, gratitude is much more than that. It is an emotion that should be felt all the time, not just when someone does something for us. There are many benefits to being grateful and some of them are: it makes us happier, it strengthens our relationships, it reduces stress, and it can even improve our health.
Keys to being more grateful
To be grateful is to recognize that what we receive is precious and important to us. What can we do to be more grateful?
Gratitude is understood as an affective state resulting from the perception of having benefited from an external agent. A profit that we obtained thanks to the generosity of someone. It is not common to feel grateful when we have been accused of doing us a favor.
The experience of gratitude is strongly conditioned by the attributions we make as a result of two processes (Emmons & McCullough, 2003):
Acknowledge that you have obtained a positive, pleasant and beneficial result.
Recognize that there is an external contribution that made this outcome possible.
As we have observed, the object of gratitude tends to be external to us: people, nature, God, animals, the cosmos, etc. We gratefully receive and return those small and beautiful details that life offers us through different means and forms.
Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude is a double reward for those who feel it. Not only does she benefit from the object of gratitude, but also from feeling it. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits it offers us:
It makes us prosocial. Gratitude increases our efforts to help someone even when those efforts are costly.
Improve our romantic relationships. Gratitude in interactions predicts increased relationship connectivity and produces satisfaction for both recipient and benefactor.
Improves sleep quality. Gratitude predicts a better quality and duration of our sleep.
It benefits our relationships. Being the target of gratitude predicts one’s relationship growth with the person expressing gratitude.
It positively affects our mental health. Research has shown that higher gratitude is linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Gratitude can contribute to satisfaction and happiness in our lives. “When we feel gratitude, we enjoy the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life” (Seligman, 2016).
Keys to increasing gratitude
The benefits discussed above are a good reason to be more thankful. With that in mind, we’ll provide some tips and activities that can help you increase that feeling.
Letter of thanks
This exercise was proposed by Seligman (2003) and consists of this: write a letter to a person for whom you feel gratitude, but to whom you have never been able to express and deliver it.
In a survey by Seligman, et al. (2005) found that one week after writing and delivering the thank you letter, people felt happier and less depressed. The positive changes generated lasted a month.
The interesting thing about exercise is that you do some introspection and focus on the value that others have done for you. This memory will make you aware of those details that have had a positive impact on your life. It will help you understand that not everything is bad and that there have been people who have left a beautiful mark on you.
Count the blessings
Focus your attention on the aspects of life for which you can be grateful and write them down. Then think about how they make you feel and why you should be grateful to them.
This exercise can easily lead to a journal in which you write down everything you have been grateful for. The important thing would be to raise awareness of the elements that inspire this gratitude.
A surprise around every corner
This activity, created by Sevilla (nd), is designed for you, to do as a couple or with someone you live with on a daily basis. Find a time during the day to reflect on something you liked about the person you want to show your gratitude to. Write down what you thought and let him know how much you appreciate what he did and how grateful you are for it.
Put a date on the writing and hide it somewhere among his belongings, so he can find it at any time: in a sock, in his wallet or in a pocket. In the best case, the person will be delighted with your gesture; in the worst of them, as long as she doesn’t find it, you will benefit, for sharing your gratitude.
Top 10 to be more grateful
Robert Emmons (2007) offers ten recommendations for not forgetting and keeping the whole set of values that gratitude brings us.
Keep a gratitude journal
This will allow you to cultivate gratitude by reminding yourself daily of the gifts, blessings, and good things that have happened to you and that you have enjoyed. “When we are grateful, we affirm that there is a source of goodness in our lives” (p.189).
Remember the evil
In life not everything is good, there are bad and unhappy things that lead you to perceive the worst. These negative times that you have overcome allow you to remember how difficult these times were and how far you have come.
The contrast between the current happy situation and your past is fertile ground for gratitude.
Ask yourself three questions
1.What did I get from ? 2.What did I give _?
3.What problems and difficulties did I cause?
The first question draws attention to what you have received from life, nature and people. The second question focuses you on what you have given and helps you see how connected you are to others. The third lets you discern the damage you’ve done and think about how not to repeat it.
Learn the prayers of gratitude
Express a few words of gratitude for what is happening to you. It is not necessarily a religious prayer, it can be of any type, but it expresses gratitude.
Come back to your senses
Focus on perceptions, become aware of the world around you. Enjoy the aroma of a perfume, the sunset, the melody of a song, the caresses of your loved ones.
The senses remind you that you live in a stimulating world. “Through our senses we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human, of the incredible miracle it is to be alive” (p.198).
Use visual reminders
Write short thank you phrases on post-its and stick them where you can see them all the time. It will help you remember that there are reasons to be grateful and things to be thankful for.
Make a vow to practice gratitude
Voting on a behavior increases the likelihood that you will end up performing it. It is important that you can write it down and stick it in a place where you can see it. You can also share it with someone.
Some vows might be: “I promise not to take so many things in my life for granted”, “I promise to pause and count my blessings at least once a day”, “I promise to express my gratitude to someone who has been influential in my life”.
Watch your language
Words influence what you think and help you build the interpretations you make of your life. That’s why it’s important that you use expressions of gratitude that allow you to appreciate the world as a place to feel gratitude for.
Make gestures of gratitude
These movements refer to the act of writing letters, keeping a gratitude journal, or saying thank you. The purpose of this is to help you set up the feeling of gratitude.
Get off the beaten track
It’s about getting out of the comfort zone and looking for new situations in which you can feel grateful. You can take a walk to admire another facet of nature, try another cuisine, explore other ways to have fun. The idea is that you venture out to encounter different and new circumstances.
It is important to emphasize that to increase our gratitude, it is necessary to be aware of what we are grateful for. Our daily lives are plagued by routine, work and the multiple tasks we perform, and we are constantly becoming aware of our place in the world and what is happening to us here and now.
Awakening this awareness is the first step to being grateful, because without it, how will we notice what we are grateful for? Being aware and remembering what life has given us are the main ingredients for being grateful.
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Vogue Health Team