Ever wonder what gratitude means? Or whether we’d be hypocrites if we’re practicing gratitude, yet still feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts or emotions? Truth is, practicing gratitude does not promise that all of our concerns will fade away. However, it can actively stimulate our minds to foster a mindset that leads us to find happiness in the simplest of things, and increase our satisfaction in life and social relationships. Let’s appreciate gratitude for the superb holistic practice that it is!
The origin of gratitude can be traced back to the Latin word gratia which translates to thankfulness. Gratitude identifies the beauty and generosity found in kind reciprocal actions between people, or in events (i.e. being alive, starting a fresh new day). As well as that, it’s expressed in actions where we receive something nice, we feel grateful, and on some occasions we’d feel even excited to do something nice in return. What’s even more interesting, is that scientists propose that gratitude is deeply rooted in our DNA as living beings, not just in humanity! How amazing is that?
The Science of Gratitude
Gratitude, as a notion, has been conceptualized both philosophically and psychologically. However, the common ground that both fields agree upon is that gratitude is a warm positive emotion felt by a person towards something or someone.
Other scholars would argue that developing gratitude means that appreciation is not only elicited from us, but also that we’d develop intentionality to recognize the goodness in what we’re appreciative of. We can appreciate the good intentions of others or even appreciate a beautiful day! So, how does gratitude play a part in our holistic wellbeing?
The idea of gratitude transcends showcasing your appreciation through prayers to the divine power we choose to follow (or not to follow). Gratitude is embodied in how we show the same appreciation to ourselves and others. Thanking someone for their kind actions, or expressing positive things about what we see in them, can help melt away any borders we might have between one another, and ultimately improve our social relationships.
Nurturing gratitude can help broaden our emotional spectrum, by expanding the range and pattern of our thoughts, which can affect how we view different situations. To put it succinctly, it exceeds fostering positive emotions. It also encourages us to feel and process the negative ones from a different perspective — one that understands there’s more to a situation than black and white, but an entire color palette to help us process what we’re going through. Gratitude teaches us to reframe stressful and negative situations in order to make them manageable with adaptive coping mechanisms.
Practicing gratitude for the first time can be daunting. Not knowing what to be grateful for is perfectly normal. Just start off by breathing deeply, and let’s get started! Here are 3 tips to help us start practicing gratitude!
Some really nice applications can help us get on the right track, and setting them as daily reminders first thing in the morning, or in specific contexts (i.e. when we’re with a group of friends, when physically active,) can bring a smile to our face. (There you go, already something to be grateful for: your heartwarming smile!)
#2 Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness can be practiced in a myriad of ways, by bringing non-judgmental awareness to the present moment. You can practice meditation to help you redirect your thoughts to aspects you’d usually be grateful for, but may have overlooked with the fast-paced days. You can also practice eating mindfully, in that you’d truly enjoy your meal, not just eating for sustenance, but taking a moment to smell the food, to enjoy how it looks, and to allow your taste buds to appreciate how you’re pampering them. Mindfulness increases our capability of savoring the moment, which contributes to our feelings of gratitude, and in turn, increases our life-satisfaction.
#3 Appreciation of Ourselves
Imagine if every time we stand in front of a mirror to get ready, instead of internalizing doubts about our appearance, we try to give gratitude for our health, our appearance and/or our body functions (i.e. grateful for our body for getting us through so much, our hearts for being sympathetic, our minds, our souls…). Our self-appreciation would have no limit!
As for us, we’re grateful, now and forever, for you!