Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
—Charles Dickens (M. Dickens, 1897)
Having a daily gratitude practice is a hot topic in the wellness world. Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in many scientific studies. We used to believe that happiness cultivated a feeling of gratitude but we are now learning that it is quite the opposite. Having an attitude of gratitude is generating more happiness among us.
We often hear people talking about their gratitude practice or describing how their morning routine involves a gratitude journal. In laymens terms this means that they are either writing down, speaking or thinking about all the things that they are grateful for in life. Weather you write down or speak the words stating exactly what you are most grateful for by tongue or on paper is having a daily gratitude practice. The statement or positive affirmation is ... I am grateful for..... followed by something you are happy about with life!
What is Gratitude?
The Harvard Medical School, says that gratitude is:
“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin root gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. All derivatives from this Latin root “have to do with kindness, generousness, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or getting something for nothing” (Pruyser, 1976). Gratitude is a state of being and like most desirable traits and qualities in that it is usually not enough to simply decide to be grateful – we must actively practice it to reinforce its place in our lives.
Small changes lead to big transformations and having a daily gratitude practice can shift your whole perspective on the world.
How practicing gratitude changed my outlook on life;
My first real encounter with a daily gratitude practice came about 4 years ago. I was in a very sensitive emotional place in my life. My father had just passed away - very suddenly - which in-turn prompted me to leave my job. I was struggling with every kind of relationship (family, friends romantic) and everything just seemed grey and grim. I was, for the first time in my life, in a rut I could not seem to get myself out of. I felt so alone and couldn't seem to shake the fog that was following me around. I am definitely a future focused person which results in bouts of anxiety that I need to manage through meditation and other present-moments activities like yoga. This was probably my first experience of depression. Both anxiety and depression are emotional roller-coasters in different and complex ways and differ from person to person.
I decided to seek help in the form of a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) therapist who specifically deal with people who are - for whatever reason - suffering from some sort of anxiety problems. It was evident why I was both depressed and anxious... Father passing, no job, relationships in turmoil there was no issue understanding the cause but the solution was what I needed help with. This is where the discussion of a gratitude journal crept in.