It’s a good feeling to be appreciated by someone. You feel happy and warm inside. Knowing how good it feels to receive appreciation, do you often give it out to others? Are you more likely to point out what people do wrong than what they do right? Everyone needs to be appreciated. I know some of us struggle with thanking someone when he or she does not seem to be thankful for all you do. The more you communicate your thankfulness, the closer people will be drawn to you because you value whatever it is they have to offer.
On the other hand, being grateful and thankful, does not only serve the receiver but also the giver. I have on all occasions experienced great emotional warmth when I genuinely show appreciation to someone or for something. This is what this write up is about – showing appreciation, being thankful, or being grateful.
Gratitude, appreciation or thankfulness is a feeling, attitude, or awareness that we are the recipients of goodness. In gratitude we remember the contribution that others and indeed, nature, have made for the sake of our wellbeing. We therefore cannot be grateful without being thoughtful. This is why gratitude requires remembering and reflecting.
Gratitude is not the same as indebtedness. Gratitude allows the celebration of the moment. Most of us find it relatively easy to feel grateful when something great happens in our lives. It is the norm to take for granted, the basic gifts of life. When something is not going so well in our lives do we stop being grateful? No. Even at moments like these, there is always something to be grateful for. The Bible tell us, “In all things give thanks …“ Gratitude changes everything. Gratitude turns what we have into the best for us as at the time.
Gratitude is not only for favours received physically. If I receive a bouquet of flowers from someone, I am not only grateful to the giver but also for the flowers. One is not exclusive of the other. Gratitude covers the whole of life and creation. The fact that you wake up in the morning calls for gratitude. Gratitude takes us outside our scope so we see ourselves as part of a larger intricate web of relationships that are mutually reciprocal. All about life calls for gratitude – the functioning of our body, the whole of nature and everyday life. Gratitude can be described in a philosophical expression as, ‘seeing the bigger picture’. Gratitude serves as a connection to our world and the Creator.
I do not want to over intellectualize gratitude, but gratitude engages the heart as well as our outlook in life. Recent studies in fields of positive psychology suggest that gratitude has a unique positive effect on well-being both for the giver and the recipient. Research shows that grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Gratitude allows the celebration of the moment. It blocks or minimizes negative emotions like, anger, hatred, envy, resentment and regret. Gratitude has also been shown to improve a person’s altruistic tendencies.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a contributor to the Scientific literature on Gratitude and Wellbeing, and the author of the book, “Thanks”, reported in his findings,
“When people feel grateful, thankful and appreciative in their daily lives, they also feel more loving, joyous and enthusiastic. Family, friends and partners who surround them consistently viewed them as more helpful, more outgoing, more optimistic, and more trustworthy. Scientifically, regular grateful thinking can increase the state of happiness by 25%”
Learning how to experience gratitude involves being grateful as an attitude, not as a reaction when good things occur. One does not need to wait until things are perfect before being grateful; in fact, it may be just the opposite. It could be that the act of being grateful, in itself, makes one receptive to life’s blessings, and these blessings continue as we continue to be thankful. You may recall the story of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus in the Christian Bible. Only one came back to Jesus to show gratitude. In showing gratitude he received the full blessing from the Lord. What do you think became of the life of this grateful man? I believe his life continued to be filled with tremendous blessings.
Ways to establish sustainable regular gratefulness –
- Self– guided ‘Gratitude journaling’ – i.e. keeping daily records of at least 3 things you are grateful for, over a period of time. This will keep you in a state of thankfulness.
- Reflective thinking and visualization of things you are thankful for. Gratitude is about remembering.
- Letter writing to someone you are grateful to.
- Gratitude visits to someone you are grateful to.
- Singing, dancing, praising God for life.
- Taking time to appreciate nature.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude in your relationships and in your life. Experience the gratitude emotion. It is a delightful emotion of love.