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Gratitude

Dr Retha J v Rensburg December 2017

· Life Skills

Gratitude is more than just acknowledging thanks. It is more than an intellectual exercise. It is much more than an obligation. Gratitude is a state of being that appreciates all that is good and welcomed in our life. Gratitude comes from the mind through intentional thought that recognizes the richness of our emotional connections with others, and all good things that bless our lives

Gratitude Can Help You Get Through Hard Times

The simple art of being grateful can be a powerful tool for getting you through the rough times that we all have to face from time to time. It seems impossible, but it really is true.

What you give out, you get back.

Science shows that being grateful, and really feeling the feelings of gratitude, can actually make you feel happier and more content, more satisfied and more fulfilled in life.

Furthermore the regular experience of gratitude can enable us to elevate our typical level of happiness in a sustained way. But keep in mind, it takes regular practice to become a healthy habit.

The premise, according to psychiatrist Robert Emmons who studies gratitude for a living is straightforward: What you give out, you get back. Gratitude carries out an important role in reinforcing and motivating positive behaviours. For example, receiving a “thank you” rewards the performance of a kind act, encouraging future kind acts. Similarly, persons on the receiving end of the kind act may feel grateful, which could motivate them to pay back their benefactor in return or pay the kindness forward to a third party.

However, just because gratitude is good doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Practicing gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies. We are prone to thinking negative thoughts (and biologically speaking, we are all hardwired to do this, as it is nature’s way of helping us survive, by keeping us alert and on the look-out for the worst-case scenario).

Because these challenges to gratitude can be so difficult to overcome, we have to put a lot of conscious effort into practicing gratitude. If we practice gratitude we begin to experience a higher frequency of emotions of love, joy contentment, serenity, and even bliss. Another way of putting it is “As you sow, so shall you reap,” or what you think, you become.

Strengthen your “resilience muscle.”

What happens when you consistently practice gratitude is that you exercise your “resilience muscle.” Of course, you don’t actually have a resilience muscle, but what you do have is the capacity to create new neural pathways in the brain purely by habitual thinking and repetition.

Therefore, the more you practice the art of gratitude, the more you reinforce the habit and train your mind to think in this healthful and positive way. Try it for yourself and see: When you are practicing gratitude, it is not possible to feel angry or fearful; you will instead experience a warm glow in your heart, as you feel happy and blessed for all the wonderful gifts and miracles that already exist in your life.

Stay in the now.

Gratitude can help you focus on what is right there in front of you: The food on your plate, the sound of birds singing as you walk through the forest, the wind in your hair, the sun on your cheek, the rustle of leaves and the sound of the rushing stream.

When you focus in this way upon what “is,” you cannot be worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. The art of gratitude helps you stay focused on the present moment. In this sense, it can be used as a tool for mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness, like gratitude, has been shown in studies to help you relax and help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Final Thoughts

By focusing on gratitude and all that you have, you stay focused in the present, feel happier, and become more resilient. When the difficult times come, you will have trained your mind to habitually think of what you are grateful for, even in the midst of a crisis. Because you are so intent on thinking positively, the negativity around you cannot help but diminish. Gratitude really can help you through hard times.

Resources

Emmons, R.A., Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology

Krejtz, I., Nezlek, J. B., Michnicka, A., Holas, P., & Rusanowska, M. (2016). Counting one’s blessings can reduce the impact of daily stress. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(1), 25-39.

Layous, K., Sweeny, K., Armenta, C., Na, S., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). The proximal experience of gratitude. PloS one, 12(7), e0179123.

McCullough ME, Kilpatrick SD, Emmons RA, Larson DB. Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychol Bull. 2001;127:249–266. pmid:11316013

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.