Why should you be grateful?
Today is my birthday and even in this year full of crazy twists I have a million reasons to be grateful. Gratitude has many definitions but what all have in common is that they define it as recognizing and acknowledging the god things already present in our lives.
Why is it important to be grateful?
In the field of positive psychology Robert Emmons’s name is intertwined with gratitude research. He and his fellow researchers examined many of its aspects, I am focusing now on those which reflect most of our modern problems.
Have you noticed you get used to the things you wait for for a long time and don’t cause you ‘extra’ joy? That new car, phone or the better job will become the new normal in a few weeks. We call this process hedonistic adaptation. Quick adaptation helps our survival in our regular lives but in this case it holds us back from being able to feel long-term happiness because of a new object or life situation. We get used to them too quickly.
When we are grateful we notice the good things in the present or reminisce about good things in the recent past. We deepen the good feelings. By practicing gratitude we train ourselves to notice and search for these good things in our everyday lives. Ever since I’m writing my gratitude journal I find myself looking for good things all day that I can mention in my journal in the evening. In my childhood I was often told that if I keep my eye on good things then my eye would catch more and more of them. It really is that way.
Gratitue is often connected to other people. To what they do for you, how they behave with you. If you put energy into noticing all the good things that others brought into your life you’ll have a good chance of valuing these personal relationships more.
Sara Algoe, psychologist at University of South Caroline thought this out more. According to Find-Remind-Bind theory consciously focusing on how attentive other people are helps us find new people with whom we can later form a quality human relationship with (under this quite emotionless expression I mean friend or romantic partner). This the ‘Find’ function of gratitude. Its ‘Remind’ aspect means that practicing gratitude reminds us of all the good things we can thank our existing relationships for. ‘Bind’ function refers to that acknowledgement of all the good things that come with our existing relationships confirms us to put more time and energy into those relationships. There will be a better chance that the relationships are good for you will stay intact.
The connection to self-esteem is that when we realize that others other doing something for us in reinforces us in feeling valuable and worthy of the love of others and ourselves. Tadah, this wasn’t complicated.
How to practice gratitude
For a start write down every evening 5 things you are grateful for. Be as specific as you can. So don’t be grateful for your friend rather for how attentive your friend is for remembering your incredibly complicated coffee preference and surprising you with that coffee. The exact example will help you reinforce the good feeling you experienced. It will be your helping hand in being able to delve into the details. Try even to close your eyes and recall what happened, the environment, colours, smells. You can also be grateful for natural things. A leaping deer in the sunset or a simple stroll to the tram station in the sunshine are both a miracle if you really notice it and live it. What matters is that it should be something that elicited good feelings in you. Sometimes even the smallest things suffice. How lucky.