The Power of Gratitude: Let’s Use It Right
Looking for a magic pill to strengthen health and build strong personal relationships but get rid of anxiety? Learn to express gratitude.
It’s wrong to think of gratitude as if it’s just about saying “Thank you.” It is a profound process of realizing the importance of a person’s presence and actions in your life and building proper communication and mindfulness that can change your worldview.
What is Gratitude?
First, let’s define the concept of gratitude. We all understand its basics: it’s a feeling arising in response to some action toward a person. But here we already have a few options to apply this feeling, according to Harvard Medical School:
- To the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings).
- To the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes).
- To the future (maintaining an optimistic attitude).
Thus, gratitude is not just a reaction to an action and a short-term “aftertaste” but also the cultivation of a positive attitude to life.
As my colleague, Douglas Williams, who is a creative content writer at EasyEssay, noticed once, “When I wake up and see that I’m alive, I can take a cup of coffee, go to work, and see a blue sky and birds on trees in the park, I have no right to complain — life is beautiful.”
Indeed, we have many triggers for experiencing gratitude:
- Rescue-relief: situations where another person’s participation helped us deal with a traumatic situation.
- Acquisition-gift: situations when we received valuable material assistance.
- Experience-knowledge: situations when we gain new capabilities, better self-understanding, more strengths, and wisdom.
- Crisis support: when we get help or emotional support in a difficult situation.
- Self-esteem enhancement: situations that have directly contributed to our self-esteem and have been valued as such by ourselves.
- Permanent presence: situations when some person or circumstance is meaningful for us.
- Directed love and attention: situations when we feel, clearly and unambiguously, that we’re loved and that the attention of another person is devoted to us, distinguishing it from the general context of life.
So, it turns out that gratitude is not only about thanking a particular person but also situations or the world (Universe) as a whole. And most importantly, it has a positive effect on the source of gratitude itself.
The Power of Gratitude
So, now we know that gratitude is a special feeling arising within us for many reasons. Now, let’s address science and examine why this feeling is so critical and whether or not it’s a form of dependence on others.
Why is gratitude so powerful?
It helps us grow emotional intelligence and empathy in particular. The practice of gratitude creates an awareness of one’s emotions, values, and strengths and a better understanding of others. It allows us to switch from the brain’s built-in bias toward negativity and examine what’s going well in our lives. Besides, when we express gratitude and receive the same, it acts as a catalyst for neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which are crucial for managing emotions, anxiety, and immediate responses to stress. (Source.)
Gratitude strengthens our health. The areas of the brain associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that get active when we communicate and experience a pleasure. Research has proven that feeling grateful and acknowledging help from others allows the body to relax.
The most obvious effect of this feeling is about strengthening a person’s mental well-being: increasing self-confidence, getting rid of a post-traumatic syndrome, and treating depression. Scientists also point out an unobvious consequence: the ability to avoid impulse purchases and unnecessary money spending.
Gratitude is also about motivation boost. Grateful people practice a positive attitude to life, reinforcing a similar reciprocal attitude toward them. It is as if the world “agrees” and also responds with a positive attitude.
So, technically a person “attracts” positive things, “launching” gratitude into the Universe. People who know how to give thanks can notice and use social resources faster, which helps them solve problems and leads to increased motivation.
To be grateful means appreciating the other person’s efforts, respecting them, and sincerely wishing them the best. Isn’t that what helps build relationships between people? It is. The process of communication between loved ones is tied up in one way or another in mutual assistance.
Human beings are social creatures interested in building strong bonds and expanding our communication networks. Gratitude can play a central role when strangers develop relationships that grow into friendships. Expressing and receiving gratitude can create a snowball effect that increases mutual value.
How to Practice Gratitude
1) Keep it a secret:
For some of us, it’s challenging to express feelings. If you want but don’t dare to thank someone, do it on paper, and you can later decide whether to send it. The act of writing itself will help shift your focus away from negative thoughts and experiences.
Another option is to say (aloud or internally) a prayer with gratitude for a particular situation or your life in general. Even if your speech is not directed to God, it will lead to positive results as you’ll experience it.
2) Consider even the tiniest reasons:
To “send” your gratitude to the future and develop optimism, find even the slightest reasons for a sincere “thank you” right now. It’s especially critical to do in the moments when everything goes wrong. Yes, it takes effort, but it works.
The most common practice is to have a gratitude journal. Write down everything you’re grateful for. Instead of thinking of random gratitudes, you can use categories like thanks for relationships that helped you, thanks for something great that happened to you (or you saw) today, thanks for opportunities, something simple near you (clouds outside, a cup of favorite drink, etc.).
3) Keep a “reminder” with you:
A picture of your family or pet on your screen, an audio of your baby or grandmother in your phone, a pebble from a trip in your pocket, or a gift from loved ones in your bag — all they will remind you that you have many moments to thank for.
All these things will bring you back to positive thoughts, even in the most challenging times.
In practice, meditation is the observation of oneself and one’s thoughts. It’s better to do this at the beginning or end of the day, as it involves focusing on the present moment without judgment.
While people often focus on a word or phrase in meditation, you can also focus on what you are grateful for (the sun’s warmth, a pleasant sound, etc.) On the one hand, it is a form of gratitude journaling; on the other hand, it’s a form of mindfulness development and focus shifting.
Long story short, you need to live the life you enjoy, celebrate it every day, notice people willing to help you, and express gratitude for all this in a form that suits you. All this will help develop a sense of gratitude in yourself.
You can start with simple steps because sometimes it’s hard to open up your feelings to others. It is not necessary to assess the level of the person’s contribution, but it is worth remembering that gratitude affects the quality of relationships with others. And if it’s important to you, it’s worth trying to catch this feeling in yourself, realize, and express it.
And people will appreciate that.
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