Think of your experience in the last 24 hours and identify three things you are grateful for. It can be a person who touched your life, an opportunity you had, a delicious meal, good weather, or any other thing you are grateful for. It can be something very small that often goes unnoticed. Write the three elements you are grateful for. How do you feel now? I believe you have better emotions.
Many times, in our lives, we ignore or take things for granted. We neither appreciate the fortune life brings us nor the contribution others give to our lives. Our ability to cultivate an attitude of gratitude is usually hindered by pride, feeling entitled, focusing on the negative aspects of life or individuals, social comparison, failure to acknowledge codependency, habituation, and novelty-seeking behavior.
A friend of mine shared his childhood story which I find worthy of sharing. He lost both his parents to a car accident at the age of 10 and he was left with his younger sibling who was 7 years old by then. They were adopted by their uncle who was loving but very demanding. Their uncle was a typical perfectionist who always wanted their metrics higher. As children, they felt very unfortunate, and they cursed the situation they were in. Growing up, they excelled in their studies at the university level. Immediately after his graduation, he was employed by one of the big four accounting firms as a tax associate and his younger sibling was in university studying medicine. Looking back to the years they were raised by their uncle, he felt they were not grateful enough, they only saw the negative and were blinded to see the positive aspects life served at their table. I remember him telling me, “Because of our uncle we are this successful, we thought he was cruel to us, but he nurtured discipline and determination, I don’t struggle to live with anyone today because I only assume they have positive intentions.” He arranged a gratitude visit to his uncle to express appreciation for his guidance and support since they lost their parents. His uncle was very happy, and their bond became stronger than ever.
Gratitude inspires people to be more generous and kinder, it strengthens social relationships, and improves physical health by enhancing better sleep, less fatigue, and decreased hospital visits. Grateful people have a high level of psychological well-being, they have fostered resilience, increased happiness, buffered burnout, and depression, and averted high-risk behaviors such as sexual behaviors, drug, and substance use. In the workplace, gratitude improves workplace climate and when expressed by employers to employees it improves performance and job satisfaction.
Putting forward her broaden-and-build theory in 2004, psychologist Barbara Fredrickson gave a simple secret, “Grateful individuals experience a higher level of positivity. Positive emotional states play an important role in opening out the outlook to recognize possibilities and alternatives even amidst difficulties. When grateful individuals see possibilities (Broaden), they are also able to develop/ grow in other dimensions of their life (Build).”
You can start today to enjoy the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude and enjoy well-being, here is how;
Cultivate a gratitude mindset: What is in our thoughts can easily be expressed in words and actions. Normalize telling others “Thank you” or “Thanks,” in your daily life and saying “Thank you” to God (for believers).
Gratitude journaling: Make it a tendency every day or at the end of every week to list the things you are grateful for. Another way can be writing a thanksgiving prayer.
Gratitude review: From time to time (I suggest monthly or every three months) list and be grateful for people in your life, situations you have been through, gifts and talents you have, breakthroughs in your life, and the little things that you often take for granted. In workplaces, annual or semi-annual retreats are the best time for gratitude review. In a corporate culture where people share their emotions before or after work, I suggest making some days for individuals to share what they are grateful for.
Write a gratitude letter: Are there people who have a significant contribution to your life, and you have not expressed to them gratitude explicitly? Write them a gratitude letter, expressing clearly and in a specific way, what you are grateful for and how you feel. A handwritten letter is more meaningful than a text message or an email. If they are far away, write a letter, scan it, and send it via email. You can accompany a gift with the letter.
Make a gratitude visit: Identify someone you are grateful to for their important role in your life. Surprise them by paying a visit. Tell them you just came to say thank you to them. You can carry a small gift with you. Don’t discuss any other business that day but only how grateful you are. In your conversation try to be more specific and mention the moments or things you are grateful for.
Learning through the years how gratitude has been an important part of my life and in improving my relationships, I affirm with Oprah Winfrey that, “Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest, and most powerful way to effect change in your life.”