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What is Gratitude and What Does it Mean to Express It?

The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Most of us have been taught from a young age to say thank you and to show appreciation for a gift, and we often do it without thinking about it, even if it is sometimes feigned. Yet why is this so and is there something more than just simple politeness?

the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).

I think for me, the key point of this statement is achieving a ‘general state of thankfulness’ as it indicates a feeling which is so much more than just the simple act. So is there a connection between an act of expression and a resulting feeling? Of course there is… we know this, we show love and we feel loved in return, we show fear and it heightens our sense of fight or flight, it’s exactly the same with thanks and gratitude. The more gratitude we express, the more thankful and positive we feel.

So little wonder the practice is encouraged so widely within religions, recovery programs, within mental support services and positive psychology programs. The better we understand this, the better equipped we are to look after ourselves when times are tough.

Why are so many people having such a tough time right now?

It’s fairly obvious really - the pandemic is digging in, at times it is all-consuming and is making many of us feel really hopeless. A helpful strategy we can adopt is to take each day at a time, but what does this actually mean?

Politicians, scientists, health professionals, the media… all have a view on how immediate and long-term future events will unfold, what direction the pandemic will take and what this will mean for our lives. However, the reality is that for us mere mortals, we don’t know. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, next week, we don’t know if it’s safe to book a holiday, when we’ll next see our loved ones. All of these feelings create a state of anxiety within us; and it is well known that worrying about the future makes us anxious in the same way that thinking about the past can contribute towards low mood. To combat this, the more time we can spend in the present, the better we will feel.

To a certain extent, and especially where the pandemic’s concerned, we can’t control what happens in the future, so it makes more sense to spend energy on those things that we do have greater control over, like how we want to spend today and how we want to feel. We can choose to worry about next week or we can choose to feel grateful for those small things that we can still do. This is the act of expressing gratitude and this is why it lifts our mood.

Try writing 3 things down that you are grateful for today and if you find that it makes you feel better, then get into the habit of expressing gratitude at the beginning of every day and see if it make

s a difference to your general feeling of wellbeing. You will hopefully discover that it’s another tool in your mental wellness kit.

Here are mine for today….

· I am grateful that I woke up feeling refreshed and healthy.

· I am grateful for the stillness that surrounds me, the lack of the hustle and bustle we used to hear in the mornings and the fact that I can sit here in the winter sunshine and listen to the birdsong.

· Even though I miss my loved ones, I am grateful that they are well and keeping themselves as safe as possible.

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