Gratitude is having a bit of a moment, with on-line courses and printed ‘gratitude journals’ freely available and strongly marketed. However, there is evidence of a real association between increasing gratitude and increasing wellbeing.
Learning to be more grateful can help increase emotional resilience, making us less prone to stress and depression, and benefiting our sleep and our relationships. You don’t have to pay for a course or a hardback journal though.
Spending as little as a fortnight writing a list every day of three things that you are grateful for can reduce anxiety and improve self-image and self-compassion for up to six months. If that sounds appealing, here are 5 tips to develop your gratitude skills.
1 – Don’t pick and choose. Don’t save gratitude for big life events, or those things that are wholly positive. There’s no limit to how small something can be and you still to be able to feel grateful and appreciate it. Nor should we shy away from looking for aspects of even unpleasant events where we can find gratitude – perhaps the support or actions of a friend or a professional.
2 – Be more in the moment. Not engaging in ‘what if’ about the future, or ‘if only’ about the past, will shut off a stream of fictional events that prompt anxiety or regret. Engage instead in what you are doing – and remember that there is nothing too mundane or routine that we shouldn’t look for elements that we can be grateful for.
3 – Stop comparing. Now that you’ve stopped comparing your life to what could have been stop comparing it to other peoples’ too. No matter how inspirational or aspirational you might tell yourself this can be the truth is that it just breeds dissatisfaction with your own life. Actively feeding your dissatisfaction actively undermines your ability to feel grateful.
4 – Mind your language. Re-framing how you think, looking at what you have instead of what you don’t, expressing ideas positively – all of these will strengthen your gratitude skills.
5 – Don’t keep it to yourself. If you’re grateful for someone else, don’t just make a note for yourself. Tell them how grateful you are. That will actually increase how grateful you feel, and give them a boost too.
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