Gratitude is an interesting concept. Practicing gratitude is one of those habits we are encouraged to practice has numerous benefits, but it is rarely discussed what it actually entails. Gratitude is the expression of thankfulness for what we experience and have. It is the feeling of appreciation we generate from within from a different viewpoint and perspective. It can be an acknowledgement and affirmation of the present moment or reliving and savouring a past pleasant moment.
There are endless benefits to practicing gratitude daily. The advantages include but are not limited to exhibiting greater capacity for compassion and empathy, having a more peaceful mind and restful sleep, a healthier and more robust immune system and, most importantly, sustainable happiness and overall life satisfaction.
Everyone can be grateful for the momentous occasions in life. It’s easy to express gratitude after receiving that bonus at work, embarking in a new relationship, or buying a place. However, practicing gratitude means we take time to notice the simple things in life, reflect upon and relish it. To be thankful for something as simple as seeing the sunrise’s beautiful colours, receiving a warm greeting from a neighbour or a delightful savoury cup of coffee. The practice of gratitude for the simple things in life will present the benefits we desire in a long term and sustainable fashion.
When we express gratitude habitually, it becomes easier to continue to bring about feelings of appreciation. The prefrontal cortex area of the brain becomes strengthened to attune to notice future experiences of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is similar to losing weight. If we want to do it sustainably, being grateful for solely the momentous occasions in life is similar to crash dieting. We may get the results we want temporarily, but if we’re going to uplift ourselves emotionally or keep the pounds off physically, we need to create a lifestyle change.
Gratitude is not a false sense of satisfaction, nor is it mutually exclusive with other negative emotions. We can experience gratefulness for certain aspects of our lives and be upset or unsatisfied with others. Although we might be unhappy with a particular part of our life, we can still find, focus on, and be grateful for the lesson, the learning or the experience in every situation.
Activity: Select an area in our life where we unsatisfied. Ask ourselves, what is the lesson and what have I learned? And be grateful for the vital education gained from the school of life.
If we practice gratitude through comparison, we make our happiness contingent on someone else’s misfortune. Which means we need to have more than others to sustain our appreciation. The problem with that is that someone else will always have more than us, and the target of thankfulness would then move. We can be grateful for material possessions, although unforeseen circumstances can occur, and we can lose these worldly possessions, they can be stolen or taken away from us. When we encounter the person who has more money, a better car, bigger house, more congenial spouse, etc. we might become jealous, envious, or experience feelings of lack.
Activity: Be appreciative of what is, without comparing. We can dig deeper and ask ourselves; “What feeling does this _______ grant me?” We might realize it provides me with feelings of safety, security, and a sense of accomplishment when we focus on the humility it grants us, rather than a sense of entitlement.
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu
The purity of gratitude arises when we are aware and allow ourselves to be thankful for the present moment and the simple joys in life.
A way in which we can cultivate gratitude include:
The majority of moments to be grateful for do not have a monetary value. When we start to realize there are so many gifts in our lives. Once we open ourselves up to experience gratitude, the list continues to expand.
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