Appreciation, acknowledgement, thankfulness – there are lots of words for gratitude.
We often feel grateful when we stop and think about people or things that are meaningful to us – our family, friends, health, jobs… Reflecting on what we do have rather than what we don’t can increase our experiences of positive emotions and personal satisfaction with life.
Another common trigger for gratitude is when we recognise that someone has gone out of their way to do something beneficial for us. A common response in this situation may be to reciprocate and look to return the favour to the person who helped us. Our good mood and optimistic outlook may even lead to a ‘pay it forward’ impact in our interactions with others.
In this way, gratitude can be seen as a relationship builder – it identifies a relationship in which we feel valued and can make us feel more connected to people. If this isn’t enough – research suggests gratitude may even contribute to longer, higher quality sleep!
Of course, not all of us may feel or express gratitude in the same way, and while it may be a positive emotion to many, it may also bring negative emotions to us such as feeling awkward, embarrassed and indebted. Personal and cultural differences are important to be aware of.
Studies suggest that some people are naturally more grateful in their outlook to life and in their actions to others. However, we can all increase our ability to both feel grateful and actively express appreciation to others.
Why not try one of the popular positive psychology interventions below – these offer you a proactive way to make small sustainable changes to your thoughts and actions and have been designed to increase your experience of gratitude. If you find they benefit you, they can be revisited and engaged with.
Three times in the week, before you go to bed, take time to think about three things that you are grateful for. Write these down and include detail about why you are grateful for them.
*An alternative to this is to reflect on three things that are meaningful to you without writing them down.
Identify someone you feel grateful to/for but may not have expressed it enough. Write a letter to them, explaining why you appreciate and value them. Arrange a time to meet with the person and read the letter to them. (Note – this is not an intervention that will appeal to everyone – both the reading and receiving of the letter may cause awkwardness or embarrassment, be aware of personal differences).
Thanks for reading!
Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, Remind, and Bind: The Functions of Gratitude in Everyday Relationships. Social and Personality Pscyhology Compass, 6, 455–469.
Emmons, R., & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2067
Wood, A., Froh, J., & Geraghty, A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005