What do you think of when you see the word gratitude? Many of us express our gratitude by saying “thank you” or through other actions, but gratitude is also a powerful emotion that serves a biological purpose. One study took 300 adults and split them into 3 groups who wrote gratitude letters to someone once a week, another group wrote about their deepest thoughts and negative experiences, and the last group which did no writing. Their results showed an undeniable correlation between writing gratitude letters and improved mental health even 4 and 12 weeks after the duration of the study, even though few participants actually sent their letters.
According to the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude can come in two stages. The first is acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. In this state, we recognize that life is good, all things considered, and has elements that make it worth living. Being able to acknowledge that life is good fills us with gratification because it makes us feel like we have received something. We are gratified by the presence and effort that we have put into choosing it.
The second stage of gratitude is recognizing that some of the goodness comes from sources outside of oneself. These sources could be anything from other people and animals to the whole world – they must only not come from oneself. Then, we are able to recognize the goodness in the world and who we can thank for it. In combination, these two stages of gratitude allow us to first recognize the good in life and then how it came to us externally. Through this process, we can recognize how lucky we are to have everything that makes ourselves and our lives better.
Gratitude is important to our wellness because it helps to form and strengthen social connections with others and ourselves. Gratitude is a selfless act – it can be used to apologize or show people that they are appreciated and loved. The selflessness of gratitude makes it an intrinsically rewarding process, where we feel a little better about ourselves or our lives when we feel grateful. Gratitude can help us keep perspective on the most important things in our lives, and can help us feel happier and more aware and appreciative of the good things in life.
Want to incorporate more gratitude into your life? Writing down the things that you are grateful for and keeping them in a place where you can see them often can help you remember them each day. Meditation is also a useful way to incorporate gratitude into your life, because it forces you to clear your mind of other thoughts and to focus on the things you are grateful for. Showing small acts of gratitude towards other people or things in your life is another great way to show more appreciation to your loved ones. Writing small notes or making them their favorite foods are just a few ways to show people that you are grateful and that they are in your thoughts.
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“What Is Gratitude and Why Is It so Important? [2019 Update].” PositivePsychology.com, 23 May 2022, https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/.