Gratitude can be described as both the quality of being thankful, as well as the actual expression of that appreciation. While gratitude is a feeling often felt spontaneously, one may also consciously practice being thankful. Having a gratitude practice holds many well-documented health benefits including increased optimism, happiness, compassion, better sleep and greater resilience. Practicing gratitude has also been linked to less anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons explains gratitude as having two key aspects. First, a confirmation that there is goodness in the world. The second part is recognizing that the source of this goodness comes from other people or things outside ourselves.
It is important to note that gratitude is not about minimizing or denying hardships in life such as illness or loss. Neither is it about denying difficult feelings. It is about appreciating what is also true: beautiful weather, random acts of kindness, a good cup of coffee, etc.
A gratitude practice can take many forms. You might start a note in your phone, turn a favorite notebook into a gratitude journal, recite three things to be grateful for upon waking or before falling asleep. Families might make a practice of sharing what they are thankful for at mealtimes.
If asked, few would say they hear the words “thank you” too often. Expressing gratitude to your spouse/partner, friends, coworkers, and children is not only important, but also seen as playing a key role in strengthening bonds. This could take the form of verbal expressions of thanks, an email, text, or even writing a good old-fashioned thank-you note.
By being intentional about daily recognition of what one is thankful for, it becomes easier to see the silver linings in life more frequently. One might even view challenges from a glass-half-full perspective.