By Elle Balchin, Rehabilitation Consultant – OT
Gratitude – it’s a buzzword I’m sure you’ve heard floating around the wellbeing space for a little while now, but what does it really mean? And how can you actually use it to your advantage?
Gratitude, in essence, is the practice of noticing and appreciating things we have or experience.
Evidence shows that the benefits of daily gratitude practice are: Better sleep, less physical illness, better motivation to exercise, increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction with life, less feelings of loneliness, better attention and memory, enhanced romantic relationships and less stress. But, how do we “practice” gratitude?
Sometimes, gratitude is easy – When someone holds the door open for you in the elevator, it’s saying thank you with a smile. When you notice someone working hard, it’s reflecting that back to them: “thank you for putting so much time into this project, I really appreciate your efforts”.
In times of stress or hardship, finding something to be grateful for can be more difficult. When your inner critic is taking over and whispering negativity into existence, it’s tough to think about the things we have to be grateful for. However, this is most critical time to consciously practice gratitude and find something to be grateful for in every day. Practicing gratitude does not necessarily mean you have to be thankful for your hardships, rather, it begs us to dive a little deeper when thinking about negative situations or experiences and finding something within it to be grateful for. For example, during a time of grief you could feel thankful for support your workplace has shown you, or the kindness of a friend.
Incorporating gratitude can go hand in hand with your – through observing and noticing your mental state and feelings, you can start to accept the negative feelings/ hurt/ pain/ frustration with self-compassion, and find peace in misfortune or difficult experiences.
Knowing what we appreciate in life means first knowing who we are and what we value and believe in. Paying attention to the things you’re grateful for can connect us to the world around us and also to our innermost selves.