Virus. Pandemic. Lockdown. Quarantine. Unlock. Virus 2.0
It’s hard to stay positive when these are the words we’re being exposed to day in and day out. Of course, the fact that we’re cooped up at home only makes the situation worse.
Over the last few months, I have read a lot of books in order to find the secret behind being happier and trying to maintain a healthy balance in life; physically, mentally and spiritually. Although different books and authors have different perspectives and methods, one of the most common amongst them is ‘Gratitude’.
It may seem like the new normal will never end, but don’t lose hope just yet. Why? Because this is a good time to remind ourselves of everything we have to be grateful for. And when you think about all the things you once took for granted.
So while you stay safe, wash your hands, and maintain social distance, also remember to add ‘practising gratitude’ to your list.
What is gratitude, though?
It is an emotion or feeling, a recognition and appreciation for what one has, that comes from acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. It opens your eyes to the fact that what you have is truly enough. Research demonstrates that the practice of gratitude can enhance overall wellbeing, and other studies have shown that people who practise gratitude are more resilient in the face of trauma. What’s more, spending a few minutes every night writing down what you’re grateful for can even help you sleep better. In short, gratitude makes us happier — and that’s definitely something we need now more than ever!
Researchers in Positive Psychology have found that gratitude and happiness are always strongly correlated. A possible theory is that gratitude moves people to experience more positive emotions, to thoroughly enjoy the good experiences, better their health, face adversity, and develop and maintain relationships of strength, which in turn makes you happier.
The three common ways people can express their gratitude are:
- By being gracious of their past (i.e., think of positive childhood memories)
- By being gracious for the present (i.e., taking time to be present and enjoy)
- By being grateful for what’s to come (i.e., hopeful and optimistic of the future) (Giving thanks makes you happier).
There is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings about happiness for the one giving thanks. The more someone is thankful or feels gratitude, the less there is time or room for negative thoughts.
Oscar Wilde once said, “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
Here are a few ways in which you can get started:
Maintain a journal
Count your blessings and write them down every day — be it the great cup of coffee you enjoyed in the morning or that recent video call you had with your friend. Soon, you’ll realize that you have more than you need to be happy.
Express appreciation mentally
If you can’t find the time to write every day, think about something you’re grateful for — e.g. the healthcare workers, police officers, and other essential services that are ensuring we remain safe — and be thankful for their hard work.
While meditation usually involves a complete focus on the present moment, the practice can also be used to focus on what you’re thankful for — such as pleasant weather, a nutritious meal, or a good night’s sleep. Try the guided gratitude meditation on the cure.fit app or website to get started.
Why should you practise gratitude?
Now that you know how to inculcate the practice — and the feeling — of gratitude in your daily lives, here’s a deeper look into the myriad benefits that come with it:
Improved heart health
Being grateful helps you stay healthy. Research has shown that a positive attitude brings down the risk of depression, stress, and anxiety, all of which are factors behind heart disease. Further, according to various studies with participants that suffered from asymptomatic heart failure, individuals who were willing to see the brighter side of life and exhibit ‘trait gratitude’, slept better and took better care of themselves! Happiness, better health, and a good night’s sleep? It’s a win-win.
Of course, showing someone appreciation makes them feel good — but the effects of gratitude go even deeper than that. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude is associated with positive future relationship outcomes, while other researchers compare gratitude to auxiliary emotions that bring people closer, such as trust. So show your loved ones how much they mean to you — and go the extra mile to reach out to friends or family you may have lost touch with. Now’s the time to let people know you’re thinking of them, and how much you value them.
Yes, noticing what other people don’t have will make you feel better about yourself — but the most important part of practising gratitude is going beyond comparison to appreciate what you have. And that’s when you stop comparing yourself to others completely. This is what helps you get rid of toxic emotions such as greed and envy, and cultivate better self-esteem!
While these are compelling enough in themselves, there’s another reason you should start practising gratitude — sooner rather than later. Research shows that regular expressions of appreciation alter the molecular structure of the brain and keep grey matter functioning the way it should. Further, the feeling of gratitude activates multiple regions in the brain, boosting the production of ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine and serotonin.
To sum up
People who practise gratitude have a positive attitude and feel better about their lives as well as their connections with others. So there’s really no reason to wait — there’s no better time than the present to remember all that we have to be grateful for.
As Melody Beattie once said,
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
So what are you feeling grateful for, today?