Gratitude: How to Be Grateful

Being grateful is not easy. In fact, the term grateful itself makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of the awkwardness of having to recite all the good in your life, in front of your class. The term is uncomfortable, often associated with the deeply religious or deeply free spirited. I am neither of these things and finding a middle ground, reclaiming the experience of gratefulness and feeling it’s benefits did not come easily to me.

These experiences are definitely my own and I am not suggesting that being religious or free spirited is good or bad. It is, however, difficult to figure out how it applies to you if you do not identify with a category your action is mostly associated with. So, where does this leave you? How can you be grateful if, like me, you’re usually a pretty grumpy, gloomy and negative person?

How to start being grateful

Following on from some of the research I did into gratitude (thanks Amit!), it has been suggested that individuals can improve their attitude and encourage their feelings of gratitude.

“Increasing focus on the link between mind and body can encourage feelings of gratitude”

– Bono and McCullough (2006)

There are lots of ways to share gratitude and experience the benefits. Even if you’re not at the stage of wanting to share all that you love with the world around you, you can still experience the benefits.

How to be grateful

Gratitude and Thinking

Thinking of grateful events has a bigger impact than when you write them down. It’s suspected that this is because when we write them down we are forcing ourselves to be grateful in a moment that may not be conducive to the act. Thinking can be done at any time and mindful thinking can help you experience really positive feedback as the thought occurs rather than stocking it up for later. Eamons & McCullough (2003).

What should I be grateful for?

People often think that they need to be grateful for actions of another person but it’s been found by Wood, Joseph and Linley that those that find gratitude easiest are more likely to involved a wider range of people and events. Such as:

  • Being grateful for being able to see a sunrise
  • Being grateful that you met your partner
  • Being grateful for the love of your partner
  • Being grateful that your church leader makes the weekly sermons relevant and engaging

Gratitude and writing

Writing is an incredibly rewarding way of expressing gratitude. Although it has not been found as effective as just thought, writing is still a useful tool. Unlike thoughts, written word is available for those days that you require a boost in your mood or any ailment

What other ways can you express gratitude? What works for you?

Bono, G. and McCullough, M., (2006) Positive responses to benefit and harm: bringing forgiveness and gratitude into cognitive psychotherapy, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

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