Positive psychologists contend that gratitude is more than feeling thankful for something, it is more like a deeper appreciation for someone (or something,) which produces longer lasting positivity. Gratitude is a selfless act. Gratitude acts are done unconditionally to show to people that they are appreciated, not because people are looking for something in return. Gratitude can be contagious in a good way.
There are three stages, says Dr. Robert Emmons, recognizing what we’re grateful for, acknowledging it, and appreciating it. The benefits of practicing gratitude are many as they help individuals to have better relationships; there levels of optimism and happiness tend to increase, better able to put situations into perspective etc.
WAYS TO CULTIVATE GRATITUDE
Thing is, people aren’t hardwired to be grateful. And, like any skill worth having, gratitude requires practice. If you learned that gratitude is one of the happiness activities that fit you best, you already have a leg up – that is, you’re already motivated and willing to put in the effort and commitment it takes to become more grateful. How exactly you accomplish this is up to you; what’s needed is simply to select at least one activity from the array of possibilities below.
1. Gratitude journal. If you enjoy writing, if you are good at it, or it feels natural to you, then a promising way to practice this strategy is with a gratitude journal. Choose a time of day when you have several minutes to step outside your life and to reflect. It may be first thing in the morning, or during lunch, or while commuting, or before bedtime. Ponder the three to five things for which you are currently grateful, from the mundane (your dryer is fixed, your flowers are finally in bloom, your husband remembered to stop by the store) to the magnificent (your child’s first steps, the beauty of the sky at night).
2. Express gratitude directly to another. Finally, the expression of gratitude may be particularly effective when done directly – by phone, letter, or face-to-face – to another person. If there’s someone in particular whom you owe a debt of gratitude, express your appreciation in concrete terms. Describe in detail what he or she did for you and exactly how it affected your life; mention how you often remember his or her efforts. It’s uplifting.
3. Count on your blessings- Instead of writing, some of you may choose a fixed time simply to contemplate each of your objects of gratitude and perhaps also to reflect on why you are grateful and how your life has been enriched. Others may choose to identify just one thing each day that they usually take for granted and that ordinarily goes unappreciated. So, don’t you forget to count on little blessings?
4. The power of paying a compliment. Give at least one compliment daily, whether directly to a person or by sharing your appreciation of something. While the person who receives the praise enjoys feeling noticed and valued, the giver can also bask in the connection. However, be genuine in doing so, false prey are easy to spot and undermines your trustworthiness.
5. Hope in a jar. Every day you add a note to your jar that describes a moment that made you happy, preferably with pretty scrap paper. The more you fill it up with happy and thankful moments, the more beautiful it becomes. Rush! Start filling up your gratitude jar now.
6. Practice Mindfulness to appreciate each moment. Focus on the present moment. Notice what’s all around you. Use all of your senses: What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? Experiencing what is right in front of you is one of the surest ways to keep a grateful heart.
7. Acknowledge one ungrateful thought per day and then replace it with a grateful one. After you catch yourself thinking, “My co-worker never does her job correctly!” stop and add something grateful. “She really does have a great attitude, though. And I know she’s trying.” Learning to hear, question, and alter your thoughts into something more grateful is truly a blessing, for it gives you the power to change your life, one ungrateful thought at a time.
There are multiple ways to practice the strategy of gratitude and it would be wise to choose what works best for you. When the strategy loses its freshness or meaningfulness, don’t hesitate to make a change in how, when, and how often you express yourself.
“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.”
– Joseph B. Wirthlin