Society holds gratitude in high esteem. Everyone wants to be more grateful which is a desirable human characteristic, however few actually are. Gratitude is about acknowledging that we have received something from someone else that we value and appreciate. The purpose of being grateful is to make life better for ourselves and others and to overcome the human tendency to take things, people or situations for granted. We shouldn’t feel entitled to the benefits, or to resent others for their benefits and nor to take credit for our own success. There were always others involved. But why do we struggle so much with this hugely inspiring characteristic? Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for all of us, whereas resentment and entitlement do. Gratitude is a virtue, which means that it needs to be taught, modelled, and regularly practiced until it becomes an automatic habit.
To complicate matters, gratitude has been identified as a trait (hereditary disposition), an emotion and a mood. It starts off as an emotional reaction of feeling thankful and recognising the contribution others have made to our life and wellbeing. It then develops into a mood of a subtle, longer-duration of conscious state and ends as a permeable character trait.
The personal benefits to enhancing our level of gratitude:
- Promotes optimal functioning
- Promotes feelings of empathy, forgiveness and helping others
- Facilitates coping with stress and loss
- Reduces upward social comparison that often results in envy and resentment
- Reduces materialistic striving
- Improves self-esteem
- Allows us to savour positive and pleasant memories
- Builds social resources
- Motivates moral and ethical behaviour
- Fosters goal attainment
- Promotes physical health
- Increases one’s spirituality
After reading those powerful benefits, I am certain you are excited to learn and grow your gratitude levels. Here are some ideas on how to do exactly that:
- Start off by taking the GRAT Assessment which will measure your level of gratitude, resentment and appreciation (Watkins, Grimm and Hailu, 1998). Don’t skip this step because it’s good to be aware of where you are right now and how you are progressing. Email us at email@example.com to attain a free copy of the GRAT Assessment.
- If you enjoy journaling, this one is for you! Take five minutes at the start or end of your day where you write down what you are grateful for. It can cover a wide range of things from the mundane to the magnificent.
- Express gratitude directly to another person. Write to them or tell them what you appreciate about them as a person or what they did for you. Expect some tears with this one!
- Take note of an ungrateful thought that popped into your head and consciously reframe it to a positive thought.
Whichever idea you use, remain curious and open-minded. If one suggestion doesn’t work, swop it for another one. Experiment and play with this. Keep it varying and fresh. If you want to engage in an online self-learning module on gratitude please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
References: Chapter 16 – R.A. Emmons & A. Mishia pg. 248-262 Watkins
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Every day we receive encouraging quotes via social media that promote positive thinking, perseverance, and ways to look at life from the bright side. Do you ever wonder where this trend started? Have you ever considered whether it adds any value? Like most trends, it’s an unconscious process that becomes contagious, and more and more people get involved until everyone becomes consciously aware of the trend.
We all read those quotes and uplifting posts and we nod our heads in agreement. If we really feel inspired we Like or even Share the post, but it’s less likely that we will reflect or act on it. If we look at those messages that promote happiness at work, in our life, or with our friends we might regard them as superficial or a trite clichéd. We may even question whether we actually deserve to be happy or even if we really want to be. Does it not feel false to be happy when there is so much misery in the world?
There are many definitions of happiness
Firstly, there are many definitions of happiness. We have first-hand experience of what fleeting happiness is, which I call the small h, which is where happiness is about experiencing loads of positive emotions in order to feel pleasure. The emphasis in on instant gratification.
However, if we define happiness at its second level, we are concerned with growth and change. We develop our skills and strengths for the service of the greater good. I refer to this as the BIG H, as most languages use one word that has different meanings we need to find ways to associate what we mean. So, for us it’s the small h and the BIG H. The BIG H comprises of six factors, which are self-acceptance, positive relationships, autonomy, environment mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth.
As you can see the BIG H refers to a totally different type of life quality. Here we can enjoy the aspects of “being”, “belonging” and “becoming” engaged and involved with our life.
The second reason we are uncomfortable with being happy is that it feels unnatural to continuously experience positive emotions. Yes, emotions are a core cornerstone of happiness (small or BIG H), however emotions are part of every human being’s existence. Sure we can suppress our emotions or even be emotionally illiterate, but that is learnt behaviour. Emotions are the fuel that enable us to experience life by attaching meaning to events, situations and people. Emotions are what make us function and if well-managed, we can thrive.
Emotions have three essential roles:
Act as messengers
Our emotions communicate what we like, want, need, and value. They give us an indication as to whether a situation is good or bad, and if we are moving closer or further away from our goals. Positive emotions let us know if we are on track and feel secure. Negative emotions communicate the opposite. Also, we receive an incredible amount of information on a daily basis, which is too great for us to process or hold in our conscious awareness. We must rely on our emotions to analyse and filter the information into what is necessary for us.
Act as motivators
Emotions provide us with the energy to think, act and behave, and get us moving. Both positive and negative emotions serve us well, and we need to learn to listen, hear and accept them. Positive emotions broaden our thinking, and open up our awareness so that we can see opportunities. Negative emotions protect us from threats, and make us alert, observant, and vigilant.
Act as facilitators
Emotions are resource enablers. They allow us to use our social, physical, and psychological resources to achieve our goals. This means that we use our connections and physical bodies to do, and our minds to think.
Now, that you understand happiness and one of its core cornerstones, you may think about happiness differently. The BIG H is not fluffy or fuzzy at all. Happiness is a conscious choice! You deserve to be happy.
If you want to develop and grow your BIG H, check out our Online Program “Craft You Happiness” on www.4seeds.co.za.