"It is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It is gratitude that brings us happiness”
Surreal. Tragic. Isolation. Loneliness.
These are the words that have embodied 2020, reflecting how the world has faced a formidable foe and where mankind has proven resilient to overcome through unity and legendary strength.
As the year 2020 draws to an end, it is once again time to examine our lives and reflect what the year has taught us. To remember those at the frontlines fighting the good fight. And those who have lost loved ones all over the world. And for us that remain to face another day, another year ahead, let us embrace 2021 with gratitude.
What does gratitude really mean? The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In simple words, a thankful appreciation for what you receive, recognising that the source of that goodness lies beyond you. It is also defined as “an emotion, an attitude, a moral virtue, a habit, a personality trait, or a coping response” (Emmons & McCullough, 2003, p. 377).
Renowned psychologist, Watkins et al observed 4 characteristics of grateful individuals:
1. They would not feel deprived in life
2. They would appreciate others’ contributions to their well-being
3. They would tend to appreciate simple pleasures (in other words, pleasurable things that are freely available to the majority of people): if an individual appreciates simple pleasures, they are likely to experience grateful feelings more often due to frequently being appreciative of commonly occurring experiences
4. Finally, grateful individuals acknowledge the important role of experiencing and expressing gratitude
Research-backed benefits of Gratitude (Happier Human, 2018) include:
1. Gratitude improves sleep
Completing a daily gratitude journal, or counting your blessings as an intentional premeditative exercise, actually reported better quality and length of sleep
2. Gratitude strengthens your physiological wellbeing
Aside from better coping and management of terminal conditions, a positive outlook has found less frequent visits to the doctor, lower blood pressure, and decreased likelihood of developing a mental health disorder
3. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
Grateful people are able to forgive more readily and connect with others with greater empathy
4. Gratitude gives you more energy
Grateful people are more likely to report physical and mental vigour, agreeableness and perceived social desirability
5. Gratitude increases the likelihood of physical activity
Grateful people are also more likely to exercise, according to a study based on an 11-week period, as they appear more aware of their bodies and their state of mind.
What are some effective ways to cultivate a practice of gratitude?
We can express gratitude in multiple ways. We can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories), the present (being aware of our current state), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).
Acknowledging how gratitude impacts our lives, here are some ideas on how you can cultivate your own practice of gratitude:
Write a Thank You Note or Letter
Express your enjoyment and appreciation of someone and how they have impacted your life. Whether or not you end up sending it, you will still reap the benefits of being grateful.
Thank Someone Mentally
Even thinking of someone and sending them positive and grateful thoughts will certainly help you become a more grateful person.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Make it a habit to write in your gratitude journal daily – it will change your life!
Mindful Meditation or Prayer
Mindful meditation and prayer help you to appreciate the present and focusses you on what you can be grateful for at the very present time.
Count Your Blessings
It is good to reflect each night on what you got wrong or right during the day and be specific on the changes that you can make.
On that last note, one of our greatest blessing that we can count this year is how fortunate we are to be living in Western Australia. Australia has been heralded internationally as one of the best places to live in over the last year by both Bloomberg and Forbes. Furthermore, Western Australia is the only economy in Australia that has a budget surplus expected to lead the rest of the country out of recession*.
In a world that prizes happiness as the most sought-after attribute in life, where the chase of material wealth and prosperity dominates in the chase for happiness, isn’t it amazing that the best things in life are free because they are too precious and priceless? It is humbling to know that the key to happiness is not in the pursuit of wealth or more-ism, but by the simple, reachable practice of gratitude.
*“The Western Australian economy (gross state product) grew in real terms by 1.4% in 2019‑20; the only state economy along with Tasmania to grow during the year.”