Learning Gratitude

June 16, 2014

Learning Gratitude

You may remember the article “Gratitude as a coping mechanism”. In this article, we discussed how being more grateful helps build up positive emotions and cope with life’s stress and setbacks. Most importantly, it helps build a positive relationship with yourself and others. No-one enjoys an ungrateful friend. And on a personal level, not being able to be grateful and recognize what a wonderful life most of us have, is a direct road to leading a life full of frustration and letting the good stuff pass you by.

Being grateful can also be a way of mindfulness, of becoming more aware of yourself, your life, your relationships and the world around you. And of really beginning to understand what matters to you, what you’re truly grateful for.

Just a simple example: imagine you fall seriously ill. And your spouse takes care of you with all the love he/she can provide. Yet, you return that love by being ungrateful, grumpy and demanding more and more. How long do you think it will take until he/she can endure the demanding task of taking care of you? My grandmother always said: “Love is repaid with love.” If you’re a grateful person, you will return all that love with love and your relationship will only go stronger.

An easy exercise to start with

This exercise is described in Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness and has been tested on his graduate students successfully. All you have to do, for a week, at the end of each day is write a list of all the things, people, events and experiences you’re grateful for in your life (past, present and future).

At first, if you’re still new at this whole being grateful thing, you will probably not have many items on your list. But try to think about it and you’ll see that everyday you’ll have something to add to your list you find yourself grateful for in your life. At the end of the week, how many items do you have?

Another exercise: Thank you letter

Writing has long been known for its therapeutic proprieties. It seems when we write something down, we make it more real and approachable, and it’s not just an idea in our heads. Dr. Seligman also asks his graduate students to write a thank you letter to someone who is still alive and is important in their lives and hasn’t been properly recognized for it yet. At the end of the semester, he gathers his students and the recipients of those letters in a private reading party and the results are a lot of smiles and tears. The recipients of the letters are kept in the dark about the purpose of the gathering.

Truth be told: thankfully we all have people in our lives that made a difference to us and impacted our life in a positive way. Often, they are not being recognized for it. But thanking them in person is a way to acknowledge the love that’s been shared. And we all know love goes both ways, and despite being an unselfish feeling, it needs to be nourished.

Being grateful everyday

Gratitude is an everyday exercise itself. Personally, I do it mostly when I feel like giving up or things just seem too difficult. It’s more like a small prayer. Either in the moment I’m not feeling capable or at night before going to bed, I try to think of at least 3 things I’m grateful for happening on that day. Most of the time, I end up remembering more than 3! And again, practicing some mindfulness becoming more aware of what’s around me and actually enjoying a little bit more my life. I often go to bed after doing this exercise with a big smile on my face. My husband may ask why I’m smiling and I’ll simply reply: “I’m just grateful you’re a part of my life.”

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jstar/409405305