The art of practising gratitude

Kelly Carty

Gratitude, a word deriving from the Latin word ‘gratia’ meaning grace, graciousness or gratefulness is a wellness method becoming more popular in recent months.

It is a particularly helpful method in the positive psychology toolkit that can buffer individuals from stress, negative emotions, and negative life events.

This is according to DCU Psychologist Lorraine Boran, who also explains how gratitude may promote better coping and resilience, with impacts on overall subjective well-being.

There are many ways to express gratitude such as keeping a gratitude journal or to reaffirm what you are grateful for throughout the day, but it does not have to be written on paper. As Boran states, gratitude has been shown to have “positive impacts on subjective well-being and other factors within higher education student cohorts, and during COVID-19”.

Gratitude journals are becoming much more common, with many companies manufacturing them. For example, Irish-owned leanún and The Head Plan provide gratitude journals that help you set intentions. Listing things for which you are grateful for each day or week can be such an easy task. However, the outcome is significant.

Practising gratitude not only has a psychological effect but also benefits an individual physically and socially. The social benefits are particularly important as gratitude is a social emotion, according to Robert Emmons, who has been studying the psychology of gratitude for over a decade.

Such social benefits include being more helpful, generous, compassionate and more forgiving. These emotions help to reduce the feeling of loneliness and isolation as you are spreading your positivity and gratitude to others.

Physical benefits recorded by those who practise gratitude include exercising more, becoming more health-conscious, better sleeping patterns and feeling more refreshed upon waking. These actions allow an individual to relax and decrease stress and anxiety, according to Emmons.

Gratitude allows us to participate more in life. Boran explains that the process “essentially requires an individual to consider and reframe their recent experiences in terms of meaningfulness, usually posing the question: ‘For what I am thankful or grateful in my life?”.

Positives then become more noticeable. For instance, we spend so much time drawn to technology that rather being just a spectator, we become greater participants in our lives.

It allows us to block those toxic, negative emotions such as regret which may destroy our feeling of happiness.

Lastly, becoming more grateful means less stress. Therefore, if you acquire a more grateful disposition, you will recover more quickly from a stressful situation.

Gratitude creates a boundary against negativity, and as the dust of Covid-19 begins to settle and we emerge from a stress-ridden period, counting our blessings is proving an essential act.

Kelly Carty

Image Credit: Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash