One of the things I come across in almost every podcast on self-development I listen to, is the act of being grateful. People of influence in the field of personal development emphasize the act of gratitude. People such as Oprah Winfrey, Dwayne Johnson, Lewis Howes, Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas, Eckhart Tolle, and many others. How come the act of being grateful is so important to them? What does it mean to be grateful and what are the effects of it? How can we be more grateful in our lives?
‘The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger when feeling gratitude at the same time’
– Tony Robbins
Gratitude can be seen as a habit of focusing on the positive aspects of life, and appreciating them as well. It is an orientation towards the positive aspects of the world. Science in psychology has shown us that gratitude can be significantly effective in decreasing symptoms like general anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation (thinking of committing suicide). It reduces subjective perceptions of loneliness and also stress. Because of its effects, the act of gratitude is being used in psychological interventions.
When we are grateful we tend to be more satisfied with our lives and we tend to be capable of experiencing positive emotions. If someone who suffers from a depression makes use of gratitude as a strength, it can motivate that person to make use of grateful acts. These are necessary to cause positive life events and also meaning in life. It does not mean that negative things do not happen in life. However, it helps you emphasize the positive ones.
‘Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough’
– Oprah Winfrey
So by being grateful we are motivated to look for positive things in our lives and highlight them. We are drawn to them. If we do this more regularly and we make it a habit of being grateful, we influence our unconsciousness into looking for positivity in our lives. This can be big or small. It might be that you see a kid holding a door open for his grandma and this brings a smile to your face. It can also be that you are grateful of having a friend who is always there for you when you need them.
While being grateful can increase positive emotions, thoughts, and behaviours it can also decrease negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Research has shown that being grateful also reduces materialistic pursuits which are associated with lower well-being. Meaning that when we are grateful for the things we have, we are less motivated to acquire new things. Another thing I found while doing research on this subject, is that gratitude enhances your access to positive memories. It also helps with getting closure of memories that were more upsetting.
Being grateful appears to be very beneficial. This is not just common sense or belief, but science in the field of psychology provides evidence for it. So how do we practice it? One thing I have come across is that if we want to practice being grateful to its full extent, we must make a habit out of it. This means we have to do it regularly, and at first also consciously. If we do this for a longer period of time, being grateful will become something that we do automatically.
‘The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness’
– Dalai Lama
We can make a habit out of being grateful by listing three things, big or small, we are grateful for. For example, you can do this before going to sleep and thinking of your entire day, scanning for positivity. You can also do it when waking up and thinking of the previous day. Or do both! This is a technique I heard Oprah Winfrey talk about. If you want it to be truly effective, try writing these things down. By writing them down, you force yourself to be even more conscious of it, and you can read it later. You slowly create a diary of positivity that you experience in life.
If it is a dog that made you feel happy when you were walking outside or you earning a bonus at work, no matter what it is that you feel grateful of, it is good to remind yourself of this. It will help you focus on positive things in your life and reduce negativity. If you do this before going to sleep, it will help you sleep more peacefully, and when if you do it when waking up, it will put a smile on your face when starting the day.
Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below or send me an e-mail! I encourage you to share your experience or thoughts!