For many people, gratitude is difficult, because quite frankly life can be difficult. Ordinary circumstances can make our minds spin into negativity and it is often hard to feel grateful when times are tough (we’ve all definitely being there). But the social science on gratitude is pretty resolute: Feeling thankful is GOOD FOR YOU.
The benefits of gratitude:
The benefits of gratitude are endless, and most importantly it is a great way to keep your mental health on track. As a mum this is imperative in our busy working mum life. We not only owe it to ourselves, but our little cherubs as well.
How can we learn to be more grateful?
We all have things to be grateful for, and what I think is most important is the non material items in our life, the people, animals, nature, health, love etc. It is easy to be grateful for the big house on the beach you live in (and if you do, lucky you!), but what makes that house on the beach a happy place to be is probably the noisy children running around, the dog that is shedding hair everywhere, those friends that randomly drop in; that is what makes it a home. And that is something worth focusing on and being GRATEFUL for. This is what can ground us and keep our ego at bay.
Putting it into practice:
There are many ways to practice gratitude. A simple way is to keep a gratitude journal. It can be a great way to finish the day and perhaps something you do once you jump into bed. Be specific. You could write down 3 things you are grateful for that day. For example last night I wrote down that I was grateful for the help a lady gave me at the grocery store while my 2 year old was having a mega melt down. I was extremely thankful for her non judgemental attitude and selfless approach. I was also grateful for my beautiful friends who took my son and I on his first boat trip and the wonderful day we had.
Sometimes our friends are angels in disguise and what a great thing to be thankful for! Science has proven that practicing these type of routines before bed can drastically improve our sleep and and assist us to wake up in a positive mood. And I’m sure you all need your quality sleep like I do, so why not give it a go?!
When times get tough:
I found myself suddenly single when I was 5 months pregnant with my son. Bringing a baby into the world solo is a tough job, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Keeping my mind on track to feel grateful really helped me get through the tough times. I am of course grateful for my beautiful son, that is a given, but another example is to get through a tough day when I’m stressed at work I think about how this ‘stressful’ job is giving me the capability to provide healthy food for my son, to pay the mortgage for our home and give my baby what he needs. It’s about turning a negative thought into a positive perspective.
Being mindful of gratitude is also a great way to build new relationships and make new friends. Using manners is something we should all do, but I’m talking about saying thank you with meaning; for example thanking a colleague for their input into a project you are both working on and being meaninful can really assist to develop stronger relationships. Become in the habit of acknowledging other people’s contributions and giving a nice compliment to a new acquaintance, is all positive ways to build new relationships in our life.
Psychology professor Robert Emmons has researched gratitude through a psychological lens and found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. The effects tend to be long-lasting. Here are some benefits.
- Greater optimism and happiness,
- Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crises
- Increased self-esteem
- Heightened energy levels
- Strengthened heart, immune system, and decreased blood pressure
- Improved emotional and academic intelligence
- Expanded capacity for forgiveness
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches
- Improved self-care and greater likelihood to exercise
- Heightened spirituality — ability to see something bigger than ourselves
Gratitude is a simple tool, it doesn’t cost any money and it doesn’t take much time, the benefits are enormous and with the start of the new year, what a great time to start practicing gratitude!