The Practice of Gratitude

May 13, 2020
The Practice of Gratitude

The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude gives an opportunity to recognize what is good in our life and allows us to see that the sources of good are usually close by. During the pandemic it can be hard to find the positive and the good in things. Being in lockdown, unemployment, working from home, homeschooling kids, cooking and trying to stay sane can be a difficult task. Finding the good in things can help switch our perspective a bit to be able to cope with difficulty in a better way. It is important to mention that this does not mean that we need to be happy all the time. We should allow space to feel those feelings of worry, anger, guilt, shame as they are part of our current experience and acknowledging the feelings reduces the power they have. 

 According to the research there’s science behind the practice of gratitude and its benefits. For example, a UC Davis study found that grateful teens had higher grade point averages, life satisfaction, social integration, and lower envy and depression, in comparison to materialistic teens. Another study had three groups of participants keep a journal to record one of three things, depending on their group: what they were grateful for during the week, what aggravated them or what affected them (without asking with a positive or negative emphasis). After doing this exercise for 10 weeks, those in the gratitude-recording group were more optimistic, had better life satisfaction, exercised more and had fewer visits to their physician. With all of these benefits, it’s no surprise that it’s important to understand and practice gratitude with those around us

It has been found that practicing gratitude can reduce symptoms of depression, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, increases self esteem, improves decision making and makes us more resilient. It has also been found that people who practice gratitude have more meaningful relationships, are more liked by others, and are more fulfilled at work. Looking at the good in our lives helps us notice that it is not all bad and that there are still things that might be going well in our lives. 

Here are some ways to practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal- you can list all of the things you are grateful for and read it on a daily basis. This can include the little things as well as the bigger things. 
  • Make a conscious effort to avoid talking negatively about things in your daily life. 
  • When something does not go right, try to find the positive or the lesson that can be learned. 
  • Thank the people around you that help or have helped you achieve things. 
  • Create a collage of the things you have that you are grateful about and post it somewhere where you can see it daily. 
  • Do something you enjoy everyday (working out, a warm shower, reading a book, watching your favorite show)
  • Think about the people you care about and make an effort to reach out to them via text, email or phone.
  • Do something good for someone when you can.

Practicing gratitude can have huge benefits that can make a difference in our daily lives especially now during these times. Try something new by putting into practice some of the above listed ideas. You have nothing to lose and much to gain!

Andrea Baskin, MS, LMHC