Gratitude: Why An Attitude Is Not Enough

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude is being thankful and appreciative for what you have. It is about remembering that there is good in life, so not just focusing on the negative. There are many tools out there to help you do this. I myself had a gratitude journal at the beginning of my journey because it helped to ground me. It helped me to see the light in the darkness and not just create a catalogue of misery like my previous diaries had been.

I opted for this because of its handy top-drawer-of-my-bedside-table size. Also, the cover made me chuckle. But, as I said, as far as these things go, there is so much to choose from. You can even create your own, as shown here. As an aside, I will forever be a tiny bit jealous of those with the artist capacity to draw and journal, but I think dwelling on it defeats the point of what I’m trying to achieve here.

The basic idea behind the journal is to get you to spend some time every day thinking about what you are grateful for. I used to do this before I went to sleep. This way I could finish the day with a boost of warm fuzzies and give myself some hope. It worked. However, I was not convinced that this was all there was to it. I wanted to understand more and so I began to dig deeper.

Why Is It Good for Us?

Research on the positive effects of gratitude is endless and convincing. From improved sleep to reduced stress. From better self-esteem to enhancing friendships and relations. And from strengthening immunity to keeping dark thoughts at bay. All for just 15 minutes in your precious 24 hours. There seems to be very little reason why we should not be giving this a go.

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing gratitude within a group I host. The participants of this group were gratitude veterans. In fact, they taught me a lot. The sticking point came when we tried to reel off our lists of thanks. We struggled. This highlighted two points. Firstly, that we were all quite tired which made is difficult. Secondly, that because they’d done it so often, it was starting to get stale.

I began to wonder at what point these activities start to lose their meaning? When do they become just another task for us to complete? Do we just go through the motions rather than savouring the way it makes us feel? It was there that I thought of a way to take gratitude to the next level. To take it from passive to active. To put the intention back into the process. And to reconnect with the purpose of behind it all again.

Putting Gratitude Into Practice

I am grateful for my dog. My partner and I have a very small and very grumpy Yorkshire Terrier called Taz. While he has his quirks, we would not change him for the world. Is it enough for me to just be grateful for him? No. I must act. I show my gratitude by making sure he is fed. By walking him the correct length for his age and breed. I groom him and get him clipped when needed. And we have a fund set up so that if he needs to go to a vet we can cover the cost.

This is gratitude in action. Let us take another example. Perhaps you are grateful for nature. You might show this by recycling or reusing your plastic bags. It might be that you show it by feeding the birds in your garden or taking spiders outside rather than killing them. This is what our focus should be when we come to journal at night. Not what am I grateful for today but how have I shown gratitude today?

With this approach the possibilities are endless. There are a million ways you could show gratitude for a single item on your list. Not only does it have the benefits we mentioned above but it also encourages creativity. On top of that we get rid of that risk of things becoming stale. Ideal. The group very much liked this idea. I am very much looking forward to what they come up with. I might even restart jotting things down myself.

Closing Thoughts

As a Resilience Coach, I use the notion of gratitude as a way to help people improve their mental wellbeing. This is either on a one to one basis or as part of larger groups. My favourite activity for a collective discussion on wellbeing is using different coloured straws. Paper ones, of course. The straws are hidden inside a box or a bag which is given to the group along with the instructions. Each colour represents something different. For example, red might be a place you are grateful for. Yellow might be a food you are grateful for. Etc.

Members of the group then take it in turns to pick a straw. Then they have a discussion about what they are grateful for and why. I am now going to have to add a new dimension to this exercise. Participants now need to also think of ways they can show that gratitude. I’m going to have to schedule more time for this particular game. Maybe this is something you could try at your place of work or with your family? You can find out more about the work I do at www.gemmalouisecoaching.com.

The post Gratitude: Why An Attitude Is Not Enough appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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