“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
It’s important to be appreciative, grateful and thankful for what we have in our life, not just as some sort of ‘think positive’ mantra, but as a key strategy to increase feelings of positive wellbeing.
It’s not always easy to really appreciate what we have. It’s hard to not want and desire more – we live in a consumer driven society that pushes messages of consumption and materialism. Even more challenging is that we aren’t hardwired to be grateful – it’s often so much easier to have a grumble and complain.
The trouble is that this constant dissatisfaction and pining for more leads to a sense of powerlessness over how we feel and contributes to a drop in well-being, leading to angst and agitation, and distracting us from the good things in our life.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is about being thankful for we have —as opposed to what we want or think we need. It has been defined as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).
Gratitude is pausing to notice and appreciate the things that we often take for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, friends and family. It’s taking a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are. Being grateful for all that we have in life is one of the keys to true happiness.
The benefits of gratitude
“The more you practice gratitude, the more you see how much there is to be grateful for, and your life becomes an ongoing celebration of joy and happiness” – Don Miguel Ruiz
Being grateful shifts the lens from what is lacking or not ideal to what is already present and good. By incorporating the practice of gratitude into our lives, we can begin to reap the emotional rewards of this state of appreciation and gratitude. Recent studies have found that ‘counting your blessings’ on a regular basis not only leads to feeling more optimistic and enjoying a greater overall satisfaction with life, it can also have some pretty amazing physical and emotional benefits.
“Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished. Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms, and those who practice it will experience significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis.” Dr Robert Emmons.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for increasing well-being in all sorts of settings. Just some of the benefits include:
- You’ll feel happier.
- You’ll boost your energy levels.
- You get healthier.
- You’ll be more resilient.
- You’ll improve your relationship.
- You’ll be a better person to be around!
- It can help reduce depression.
“Gratitude is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice we make. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful—to take our gifts and blessings for granted. As a choice, gratitude is an attitude or disposition.” Angeles Arrien
There’s some simple things you can do to begin the practice gratitude:
- Don’t be picky: appreciate everything, even the small stuff.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Just note one or more things you are grateful for on a daily basis.
- Give at least one compliment daily or share your appreciation of something.
- Sit down daily and think of five to ten things you are grateful for. Then picture them in your mind and enjoy the feeling of gratitude in your body.
- Improve your happiness in other areas of your life. For example, before you sit down to eat dinner, say one thing that you are grateful for.
Bringing gratitude into your life is easy and hugely beneficial. Give it a go!
If you need someone to talk to, you can call our MensLine Australia counsellors on 1300 78 99 78, or register for online chat.