Why is Gratitude Important
I want to share with you one of my favorite words: Gratitude.
In this post I’ll be discussing what it is, why it’s important and how you can practice it.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is a latin word which originally meant an attitude of gratefulness. I love John Milton’s definition:
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
In this sense, it is considered a lifestyle that one would regularly practice Many people assume gratefulness and thankfulness are exactly the same and while they are similar they also differ in one important way—thankfulness is a feeling. You can feel thankful towards someone. Gratitude is both a feeling and an action. By definition a grateful person who “show their appreciation.” It’s thinking beyond the feeling and turning them into actions.
You can be grateful for the people in your life, the world at large and even the events happening in your life. You can even be grateful towards yourself. In each case you would show your gratitude in someway. That could mean letting those close to you know how important they are to you, taking care of your community by keeping it clean, celebrating important milestones, and taking care of yourself to show appreciation for yourself.
Unlike thankfulness, which can be a quick feeling, gratefulness is a continuous state of thankfulness. When you buy a stranger a meal it could be because you have adopted a grateful attitude towards your own finances. If you help your friend when they are sick, you are grateful for your own health. Practicing gratitude, the attitude of gratefulness, let’s you see all the ways you are privileged and encourages you to extend that to others and the world around you. It is a daily thing where you are looking at your life for moments where you should be grateful.
Why it’s beneficial
It’s not easy to be grateful all year round, but getting into the habit of showing your thanks has a number of benefits
Puts you in the present: It is really easy to lose focus of the present. There is so much going on in our lives and it’s easy to become stressed about the what’s to come or things that happened in the past. This causes you to lose track of what’s going on in the present.
Practising gratitude, puts you back into the present. It forces you to look at your life in the here and now and take a look at the things that you can be grateful for. That could be people in your life that help you cope with stress; perhaps you have a friend that lets you vent and cares about you. Or you can be grateful for being able to care for yourself and meeting your basic needs. It also mean being grateful for the skills and talents that you have that are helping you cope with some of the stress in your life. When you start being grateful for things, you reconnect with the present.
This is your life. It is a beautiful life, regardless of what you are going through. Take a moment; take a breather and step into the present by being grateful. By entering the present you can practice other techniques such as mindfulness or meditation.
Coping strategy. As mentioned above gratitude is a great way to put you in the present and this sets your mind for other coping techniques. But gratitude can be considered a coping strategy on its own. For many people who are stressed out, the feeling can be the result of feeling out of control. You may feel as though you are overwhelmed or that life is getting out of control. Because gratefulness is an action oriented word, it lets you see the areas of your life where you do have control. Remember, gratitude is about showing your thankfulness. Thinking of ways to show your gratitude can help people feel more in control of their life as well as give them that feeling of thankfulness. This helps to minimize stress.
Helps you avoid taking things granted. It’s so easy for virtually everyone to take something or someone in their life for granted. I have a friend who would text me good morning often. I would text back and it became a habit for us. Then he moved, got busy, and he wasn’t able to text as much. I was like “dude where’s my text” I then realized I had been taking his kind act for granted. I had never actually stopped to tell him how much it meant to me for him to text me. When we take things for granted we run the risk of becoming entitled. We stop seeing the privilege in our lives and we begin to expect things. The good things in your life are worth acknowledging.
Helps you stay positive. Sometimes life can take a turn for the worst and in those times it can be hard to stay positive and hopeful. However, practicing gratitude helps to train your brain to see the positive side of things even when it doesn’t feel like there is anything to be positive about. It puts the feeling of thankfulness into the forefront of your mind and lets you acknowledge the things that are going right even when everything else seems to be going wrong. Also because gratefulness is an action and not just a feeling it encourages you to act; this can motivate people to make changes in their life.
How to be more grateful
Before you can begin to practice gratitude as an action you need to get into the habit of internalizing the feeling of thankfulness. You can’t show your appreciation for something unless you know what you are grateful for. And in order gratefulness to be beneficial it has to become a lifestyle. To set you on the path of living gratefully, try this exercise:
Step 1: Take a deep breath
Step 2: Hold it for 5 seconds
Step 3: While holding your breath of something you are grateful for
Step 4: Breath our slowly
Step 5: Say what you are grateful for out loud
The reason you say it out loud is to get into the habit of externally expressing your gratitude. The more you get comfortable with vocalizing your gratitude, the easier it will be to show your appreciation.
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