6 y/old’s: 1 July “I am happy that we will have a dog! I am happy that I have warm bath water.”
12 y/old’s: 25 Jun “I am glad I am not a servant or slave. I am glad that I am not an orphan.”
Gratitude is cultivated by purposely choosing to pay attention to those things that you have a deep appreciation for in life. Gratitude is a feeling, it’s a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for both the small and big things that come along with life. When we have a deep sense of gratitude, we actually have a sense of awe. That positive emotional experience has been shown to improve resiliency and improve overall mental and physical well being.
There are numerous benefits that scientific research has uncovered, associated with purposefully practicing gratitude. People who intentionally practice gratitude are more satisfied with life, overall happier, more optimistic about their futures and are better at handling challenging situations. They have fewer illnesses, they get more sleep, they exercise more and are able to think more clearly in problem solving situations.
How do we actually cultivate and practice this? One of the essential ingredients is that you have got to actually believe it and intentionally practice it. The second element is the deeper the processing, the greater the benefit the person experiences. So along with the thinking of “I’m grateful to have that person in my life”, you ask a deeper question. What if that person wasn’t in your life? You may think about a loved one and about the absence of that person – it can bring you to tears. But it’s not tears of sadness. It’s tears of appreciation.
Gratitude is an emotional experience that can be cultivated by positively reflecting on aspects of our lives. We have decreased levels of stress, that can produce chronic wear and tear, instead the practice enable us to become resilient. We have a greater sense of fulfillment and we’re more connected with others. People also report having increased social functioning, they are more likely to interact more positively with others. We have more vitality and energy to do things which creates greater alertness and joy. We are more likely to be generous, compassionate, and engage in pro-social behaviors. We often sleep better and longer and we exercise more and ultimately feel less stressed. Hence we feel better rested and happier.
What are the gratitude practices that you can do? Thankfully researchers have identified the type of activities and the frequency. Research has identified keeping a gratitude journal as an effective method – reflecting on your week and identifying five things for which you are grateful, or were surprised by in a positive way. Research has pinpointed that once a week as the optimal frequency to engage in gratitude journaling. We need to engage in that deeper processing of how that positive event, or that person, or action, if it never happened, how would that have affected us.
“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.” Epictetus
A German walks into a bar and asks for a martini. The bartender asks “dry?”, he replies “nein, just one”.