When I was little and grumbling about something I couldn’t get or something I couldn’t afford to do, I remember my grandmother advising me, “Why don’t you look at those who don’t eat” or “Those who don’t have a roof over their heads.” That answer then didn’t make me feel any better. It probably irritated me more, since at that time I felt entitled to have whatever I wanted. It took many years of introspection and my “acquaintance” with a health problem to bring the gift of gratitude.
But what does “I feel grateful” mean?
The way we each feel gratitude is different.
For many of us, it is the miracle of waking up every day or the feeling you feel every time you whisper “thank you” to God for all that is in your life. It’s the beauty you find in every moment, great and small, in your life.
But why is it so important to practice gratitude?
- According to positive psychology, gratitude is one of the important factors that lead us to happiness.
Research has shown that people who are grateful are happier, more optimistic, more energetic, and experience more positive emotions than those who have not cultivated a sense of gratitude within themselves. The man who enjoys his life sees it with another eye. He enjoys the gifts of his life and sees difficulties as opportunities and lessons. He gets used to seeing the positive side of life.
- Gratitude moves us to the present.
It helps us focus on what we have right now and helps us appreciate it. We thus avoid the trap of asking for what we do not have, comparing ourselves with others, and consequently becoming unhappy with feeling jealousy or envy or falling into the trap of “I would be happy if I had… or if I could…” No, if you have not lived through serious traumatic events, such as a war or rape, your happiness does not depend as much as you think on the external conditions of your life. It depends on how you see your life.
- Gratitude improves health.
Studies have shown that people who are grateful have lower stress, less anxiety, less chance of getting depressed or becoming neurotic. In fact, they tend to manage stressors and traumas more effectively.
- Expressing gratitude improves human relationships.
People who feel gratitude and express it tend to help others to reciprocate acts of kindness, and to be less materialistic. People who value their family and friends treat them better and develop closer bonds with family and friends.
- Expressing gratitude in times of hardship, chronic illness or loss helps people adapt and cope more effectively.
Although it sounds unlikely, research has shown that in very difficult times, expressing gratitude is perhaps the best we can do to cope.
For all of the above, it is important to feel grateful especially during this difficult time in the last few weeks. Perhaps this is how we can cope with the feeling of confinement but also the feeling of fear, loneliness, and possible illness. Maybe this is how we start to treat our people with more love and kindness, to become less critical of those around us.
Will you tell me, of course, how easy it is to be grateful especially now with all that we hear every day, with deaths rising dramatically in our city, threatened by the economic crisis?
Sure, it’s not an easy thing, but it can be learned. Gratitude requires daily practice but its rewards are many. Let’s start with a simple exercise. Let us note three different things every night that we are grateful for. In the beginning, it will be difficult. But the continuation can be a real surprise.