Gratitude can be easily defined as an expression of appreciation, a manifestation of kindness and spiritual connection, an acknowledgement of the things you have versus focusing on the things you do not. Some often think that gratitude and being thankful are synonymous, however, despite their similarities, these are two different concepts.
When you are thankful for something, it is common nature to express this by sharing a “thank you” for being pleased or relieved. Someone gives you something that you wanted; you might automatically respond by saying “thank you” as a short exchange to show your appreciation. This short exchange does not continue, and the feeling of thankfulness dissipates after the interaction is over.
For example, a stranger holds the door open for you. A typical response would be responding with a “thank you” and moving on. That is thankfulness, someone has done something kind and the kindness was briefly acknowledged. Gratitude builds on thankfulness and goes beyond the simple “thank you.” Gratitude is internally appreciating the ability to walk through the open door and taking it a step further to hold that door for someone else.
Gratitude is similar in the context of appreciation, but gratitude leans more towards an action than a feeling. When expressing gratitude, there is intention behind it. One must actively acknowledge this appreciation and ensure that gratitude is continually expressed even after the “thank you.” Gratitude can have an exponentially positive affect on one’s wellbeing when practiced consistently! Some of the positive impacts include:
Decreased depression and negative self-talk
Positive outlook on life and goals
Improved sleep patterns
Ability to be present in the moment
Decreased stress levels
Improvements in physical health
Our culture is one that constantly supports wanting the next “shiny new thing” and the appreciation is lost for what is already there by continuing to focus on what is next, which can result in a debilitating pattern of negative thinking. It distracts you from acknowledging the good in your life now, suggesting the “grass is greener on the other side.” The truth is that the grass is greener wherever it is watered, and the grass is going to look greener farther away because you are seeing it from a different perspective when you look at it from a different angle. If you actively choose to foster gratitude in the moment and start decreasing your focus on the things that you want that you don’t have, you are able to connect within yourself and with others in a more meaningful way and can see your “grass” in a new light and perspective. It challenges the thought patterns of “I’ll be happy when ____ happens/changes/is different.” It doesn’t mean you can’t want more in life or can’t set goals to improve our life, but it means that you acknowledge and appreciate what is already there, that often gets forgotten in the monotony of day-to-day life. Gratitude is practicing the mindset of “I am happy because I am alive and breathing today.”
The following are a few simple ways to practice gratitude:
Daily gratitude lists (i.e., 3 good things, what made today a win)
Writing a gratitude letter for someone in your life or yourself
Giving back to others/volunteering
Fostering your relationships
Expressing your appreciation to your loved ones
Engaging in self-care (i.e., exercise, eating nutritious meals, practicing good hygiene habits)
Valuing and respecting yourself and others