Gratitude is often thought of as the positive emotional response to “gifts” in our lives, such as from others, nature or something else outside ourselves (for those spiritually minded). Usually we often think of a specific situation where someone has perhaps helped us or we’ve managed to achieve something special for ourselves. Gratitude and appreciation is thought to be much broader than this and extends to giving attention to what is good and valuable in our lives.
Often in life we tend to focus on what we haven’t got or would like, in order to improve our levels of satisfaction and personal happiness. It is often easy to overlook or take for granted what we do have in our lives. This is partly the way we are hard-wired as human beings to give more attention to possible challenges and threats rather than to what is good or going well. This is especially true when we are feeling stressed, tired or going through a particularly demanding time.
It is also very easy to take for granted or overlook positive things, simply because they are there and don’t need extra attention or work from us. We sometimes only become aware of what we have when it isn’t there. Going camping can be a wonderful reminder of the comforts of modern living! In addition, if we feel down about ourselves or have low self-esteem, it can be hard to accept that we are deserving of gifts or good things.
Recently, researchers began to become really interested in this area after they made the discovery that people who regularly practise appreciation and gratitude tend to show better psychological wellbeing compared to the general population. There is some scientific evidence which has demonstrated that those people who regularly “count their blessings” experience higher levels of happiness. It is claimed that we can all enhance our levels of gratitude by practising such simple techniques. Here are a couple of ideas to try out for yourself:-
*Appreciate something simple. This can be taking time to really savour the food you are eating and enjoy the tastes, textures and flavours. Or really taking pleasure in a social activity, such as spending time with family, a group of friends or someone important to you.
*Saying a genuine thankyou to someone whose help you have appreciated, whether looking after your pet or doing some other kind act.
*Have a go at counting your blessings. Try each day to record a list of things you are grateful for during the day (or the week if that works better).
*Enjoy a “golden moment”, such as sitting in the sunshine, taking pleasure in the natural world or enjoying a landscape view.
For more on psychological health and wellbeing, please watch this space.