As noted by Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on this topic, “Gratitude is an emotional state and an attitude toward life that is a source of human strength in enhancing one’s personal and relational well-being.”
From a psychological perspective, the practice of gratitude has been shown to:
•Increase happiness and life satisfaction
•Increase your perceived level of social support
•Improve emotional resiliency
•Reduce symptoms of depression
Gratitude is actually a form of generosity, because it involves offering or extending “something” to another person, even if it’s only a verbal affirmation of thanks. It’s not so surprising then that materialism has been identified as one of the most significant blocks to gratitude.
When you start seeing everything as a gift, opposed to things you’ve deserved, your sense of gratitude will begin to increase. It can also be helpful to remember that materialism, ungratefulness and entitlement are sure-fire prescriptions for unhappiness, as generosity and happiness are linked. Put another way, when you act generously — even if no money is involved — you automatically increase happiness.
Act stingy, happiness decreases.
Focus on the goodness of other people — Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxiety.
Focus on what you have received rather than what’s been withheld.
Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages, more things or “better luck,” as doing so will wipe your sense of security. If you’re going to slip into the habit of comparisons, think about what your life would be like if you didn’t have something you currently enjoy.
Express gratitude for seemingly “useless” or insignificant things. It could be a delightful scent in the air, the colour of a flower, your child’s freckles or the nature around you. Over time, you’ll find that doing this will really help your ability to identify good things in your life
Let go of negativity by changing your perception — Disappointment can be a major source of stress, which is known to have far-reaching effects on your health. In fact, centenarians (those who have reached 100 years +) overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid if you want to live a long and healthy life.
Since stress is virtually unavoidable, the key is to develop and strengthen your ability to manage your stress so that it doesn’t wear you down over time. Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. It takes practice, though. It’s a skill that must be practised daily, or however often you’re triggered. A basic method to let go of negativity is the realization that the way you feel has little to do with the event itself, and everything to do with your perception of it. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened.
Be mindful of your nonverbal actions — Smiling and hugging are ways of expressing gratitude, encouragement, excitement, empathy and support. These physical actions also help strengthen your inner experience of positive emotions of all kinds.
Give praise — Research shows using “other-praising” phrases are far more effective than “self-beneficial” phrases. For example, praising a partner saying, “thank you for going out of your way to do this,” is more powerful than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as “it makes me happy when you do that.”
Prayer and/or mindfulness meditation — Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing "mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you're grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.
Create a nightly gratitude ritual — One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar, into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Any jar or container will do. Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar. Or write your note on a Post It and stick these around the house to remind you and your family of how grateful you are.
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