Practising gratitude is one of the easiest but most powerful ways of changing your outlook on life. I touched on this in my post, 4 Ways to Break the Vicious Cycle of Acquiring Things, but I want to elaborate more on the effect of gratitude on us.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is defined by the Oxford dictionary as
“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
This definition is quite vague, but that suits gratitude since it can be thought of as a way of thinking, an act of kindness, or a strategy and it can be practised towards people, events, concepts, or even inanimate objects like nature. People have been interested in gratitude since ancient times, as evidenced by these quotes:
- “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” – Socrates
- “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus
Interestingly, scientific studies into the effects of gratitude on people have only been down in recent years. In one study from 2003, participants were instructed to keep a weekly list of either things they were grateful for, hassles they encountered, or events that had an impact on them (could be positive or negative). Participants also filled out weekly or daily logs of whether they had experienced certain feelings (such as angry, sad, stressed, joyful, grateful, and excited) and whether they had experienced physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachache, and shortness of breath). The researchers reported the following findings:
“Relative to the hassles and life events groups, participants in the gratitude condition felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic regarding their expectations for the upcoming week. They reported fewer physical complaints and reported spending significantly more time exercising.” (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
The researchers suggest that practising gratitude could help moderate the effect that different events have on a person and practising gratitude daily seemed to correlate with an increase in offering support to others.
These findings inspired me to more consciously incorporate gratitude into each day. For the month of May, I am keeping a gratitude log (pictured above). I am writing down one thing that I am grateful for, big or small, each day. So far, I have been doing this at the end of the day just before heading to bed, which has been a nice way to end the day on a positive note.
Have you ever kept a gratitude log? Or would you want to try it? Share in the comments!