Your goals will give you direction, but it’s essential to enjoy the journey too.
Every day we urge you to take one minute to focus on being grateful. Write down three things
you are grateful for. It could be to do with your family, your friends, your work or your hobbies.
It can be something big like a promotion or something small like noticing the leaves changing
colour. Even if you have had a challenging day you can always find something to be grateful
for: it might be for being alive, or being able to walk, or able to listen to the radio. Whatever
your circumstances, there are positive experiences to record.
When you take a minute to appreciate what you have, you begin to focus on what you have
rather than what you don’t have. You start to recognise that you have everything you need to
be happy now, and this is life changing!
The Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, is dedicated to a
major research project into the benefits of gratitude. They have discovered that people who
practice gratitude regularly enjoy the following benefits:
• They have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
• They higher levels of positive emotions;
• They have more joy, optimism, and happiness;
• They tend to display more generosity and compassion;
• They feel less lonely and isolated.
So make sure you take one minute a day to be grateful and you will enjoy your life far more!
Gratitude is a warm feeling of thankfulness towards the world, or towards specific individuals.
The person who feels gratitude is thankful for what they have, and does not constantly seek more.
Unfortunately, for many of us, gratitude is tied up with more complex feelings, perhaps as a result of having to write thank-you letters as a child, or to say thank you for things that we didn’t want. This makes it harder to establish when gratitude should be felt or expressed, and also often makes us feel awkward rather than grateful.
What is Gratitude?
gratitude n. warm and friendly feeling towards a benefactor: thankfulness.
The word ‘gratitude’ comes from the Latin word gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful.
In its broadest sense, then, it is simply a feeling of thankfulness. In common usage, gratitude may be either:
- Specific – gratitude could be directed towards someone or something specific, who has done something good for us, perhaps given us a gift; or
- General – gratitude could be a warm feeling towards the world, or towards a deity, for everything in life.
This concept of being grateful to a deity crops up in several world religions, for example, in the Christian concept of saying ‘grace’ before meals.
“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful”
For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful
Feeling and expressing gratitude is graceful, or virtuous.
In other words, gratitude shows that you do not take things for granted.
Although we are constantly urged by advertisers that ‘You deserve it’, actually being around people who are always saying that they deserve more is quite wearing. Self-esteem and feeling good about yourself is one thing, but expressing gratitude for the good things that you have is a sign that you don’t expect the world to provide for you.
But you do have to sound like you mean it and, for most of us, that means that you actually have to mean it. Most people find it quite easy to detect hypocrisy and generally don’t like it.
The crucial aspect may be to consider what you are grateful for and why. For example, you may not like Auntie Nellie’s gift, but you are genuinely grateful that she has bothered to buy it, wrap it and give it to you. You can thank her warmly for the trouble she has taken, and both sound, and be genuine. Try to thank her for the gift itself though and you may well find yourself sounding and feeling awkward and ‘fake’.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Someone who is grateful is the polar opposite of the person who feels that they are owed something by the world. They have the gift of enjoying and valuing what they have, which makes them rewarding friends and companions.
But gratitude also has more practical benefits.
Research shows that people who are grateful tend to show higher levels of well-being and happiness (in other words, they feel better about themselves and their lives), and improved mental health. They may even sleep better!
Expressing gratitude to those who have given us something, whether that is out of the goodness of their hearts or in the line of duty, also helps them to feel good, and improves their self-esteem.
Gratitude has been shown to improve social ties and promotes more social behaviour. It makes other people want to show gratitude too, a phenomenon known as ‘upstream reciprocity’. Grateful people tend to want to repay favours, and not just to the person who did them the favour but to other people as well.
So feeling and expressing gratitude helps you and those around you to feel good, and that tends to result in the good feelings being spread even further.
A little gratitude can go a long way…
Many people suggest that they feel awkward expressing gratitude. However, being able to say thank you to others nicely is a strong social skill. It may require some work, particularly in thinking about why you are grateful so that you can be genuine in what you say. But done well, it will draw people to you and help to make you a good friend.
Gratitude is a skill that is well worth cultivating, a skill you need.