Gratitude is defined as a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether it be tangible or intangible. In other words, it involves a benefit you obtain thanks to someone’s generosity. Indeed, you don’t usually feel grateful if you’re charged by someone for doing you a favor. In this article, we give you ten tips to help you to express gratitude in your life.
The experience of gratitude is highly conditioned by the attributions you make. These are a result of two processes (Emmons and McCullough, 2003):
- You recognize that you’ve obtained a positive, pleasant, and beneficial result.
- You recognize that an external contribution has made this result possible.
The object of gratitude is usually outside of you. For example, you might feel gratitude to other people, nature, God, animals, the cosmos, etc. In fact, you gratefully and happily receive all the small and beautiful things that life offers you.
Benefits of gratitude
Feeling gratitude is doubly rewarding. That’s because you don’t only benefit from the object of your gratitude, but from your feeling of the emotion as well. Let’s examine some of the benefits that gratitude provides:
- It makes you prosocial. Gratitude increases your efforts to help someone even when such efforts are costly.
- It improves your romantic relationships. Gratitude in interactions predicts an increase in the connections in your relationships. Hence, both recipient and benefactor feel satisfied.
- It improves the quality of your sleep. Gratitude predicts a higher quality and duration of sleep.
- It benefits your relationships. Being the target of gratitude predicts your relationship will grow with the person expressing gratitude toward you.
- It positively affects your mental health. Research has found that higher gratitude is linked to a low risk of depression and anxiety.
- It contributes to satisfaction and happiness in your life.
“Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life.”
Keys to increasing gratitude
The benefits we mentioned previously are good reasons to be more appreciative. With this in mind, we’ll provide you with some tips and activities that can help you express gratitude in your life.
Seligman proposed this idea in 2003. It means writing a letter to a person to whom you feel grateful, but to who you’ve never been able to express your gratitude. Then, you give them the letter.
In 2005, Seligman et al conducted a study and found that one week after the thank you letter was written and delivered, people felt happier and less depressed. These positive changes lasted for about a month.
The interesting thing about this exercise is that you reflect and focus on what you value that others have done for you. This reflection makes you aware of the details that have positively impacted your life. Furthermore, it helps you to appreciate that not everything is as bad as it seems and that you’ve had some people in your life who’ve left you with beautiful memories.
Count your blessings
Focus your attention on the aspects of life for which you can be grateful and write them down. Then, reflect on how they make you feel and why you should be thankful for them.
Leading on from this exercise, you might start a journal in which you write down everything for which you’re grateful. This works in raising your awareness of the things you should express gratitude for.
A surprise around every corner
Sevilla (n.d.) designed an activity for you to do with your partner or with someone you live with on a daily basis. Find a time during the day to reflect on something you like about the person to whom you want to show your gratitude. Write down your thoughts, telling them how much you value what they’ve done for you and how grateful you are.
Put a date on your writing and hide it somewhere among their things, so they can find it at any time. For example, in one of their socks, their wallet, or their handbag. In the best-case scenario, the person will feel happy about your gesture. On the other hand, if they don’t find it, you’ll still benefit, as you’ve shared your feelings of gratitude.
Top ten things to be most grateful for
Robert Emmons (2007) proposes ten ideas to ensure you don’t forget what you should be grateful for.
1. Keep a gratitude journal
This will allow you to cultivate gratitude by reminding yourself daily of the gifts, blessings, and good things that have happened to you and that you’ve enjoyed in your life. Emmons says of gratitude “It’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received.”.
2. Remember the bad
In life, not everything’s good. Bad and unfortunate things happen that might lead you to think the worst. However, you overcome these negative moments. In fact, they serve to remind you of how difficult things used to be and how far you’ve come.
The contrast between your current fortunate situation and your past is a fertile ground for gratitude.
3. Ask yourself three questions
- What have I received from _____?
- What things have I given to_______?
- Have I caused any problems and difficulties? If so, what are they?
The first question focuses your attention on what you’ve received from life, nature, and other people. The second question focuses on what you’ve given and helps you perceive how connected you are to others. The third allows you to discern the damage you’ve caused and think about how not to repeat it.
4. Learn prayers of gratitude
Express a few words of gratitude for what happens to you. It doesn’t have to be a religious prayer, it can be any kind. The idea is that it expresses your gratitude.
5. Recover your senses
Concentrate on your perceptions, become aware of the world around you. Enjoy the scent of a perfume, the sight of a sunset, the melody of a song, the caresses of your loved ones.
Your senses remind you that you’re alive in a stimulating world. As Emmons states, “Through our senses, the ability to touch, see, smell, taste and hear -we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human, and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive “.
6. Use visual reminders
Write short prayers of thanks on sticky notes and stick them where you can constantly see them. This will help you to always remember that there are reasons to be thankful and things to be thankful for.
7. Take a vow to practice gratitude
Resolving to behave in a certain way increases the likelihood that you’ll actually do it. It’s important that you write it down and put it in a place where you can see it. You might also want to share it with someone.
Some vows might be: “I promise not to take so many things in my life for granted,” “I promise to pause and count my blessings at least once a day,”or “I promise to express gratitude to someone who’s influenced me in my life.”
8. Be mindful of your language
Words influence what you think and help you build the interpretations you make about your life. That’s why it’s important that you use expressions of gratitude that allow you to appreciate the world as a place to be grateful for.
9. Perform acts of gratitude
These acts refer to writing letters, keeping a gratitude journal, or saying thanks. The purpose of this is to help you shape your feelings of gratitude.
10. Think outside the box
Leave your comfort zone occasionally and look for new situations in which you can feel grateful. For instance, you can take a walk to admire different facets of nature, try different foods, or explore other ways to have fun. The idea is that you venture out and encounter different and novel circumstances.
It’s important to emphasize that in order to increase your gratitude you must be aware of what you’re grateful for. Your day-to-day life tends to be consumed by routine, work, and many routine tasks. For this reason, you often don’t stop to think about your place in the world and what’s happening to you in the here and now.
Awakening this consciousness is the first step to becoming grateful. That’s because if you’re not conscious, how will you know what you’re thankful for? Indeed, being aware and remembering what life has given you provide you with the main ingredients for expressing gratitude in your life.
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