What is Gratitude? And Why Is It important? A Simple Guide to Practising Gratitude in Tough Times
With the Covid-19 pandemic spreading wider and faster than anyone could have predicted, we’re now living through some of the most uncertain times in modern history.
During these tough and challenging times, we need more hope and positivity than ever.
And one of the best ways to bring more positivity in our lives is by practising gratitude earnestly.
Unfortunately, gratitude is not always something that comes naturally to most of us. Although most people have a vague idea of what gratitude is, only a few truly take the time, to understand, explore, and practise it.
But if you do, you’ll find that it can enrich your life and help you reach your goals with deeper joy and happiness – pandemic or not.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is defined in many different ways. (Which is perhaps one of the reasons why most people only have vague idea of what it really is.)
But in the simplest terms, gratitude is a deep appreciation for something good or valuable in your life.
Most people have an idea of what this feels like – that positive feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness for something good that you received, whether it be tangible or intangible.
But genuine gratitude – the one that can transform your life – goes beyond just good feelings for something that’s been given to you. It goes deeper and involves a more holistic view of your life and your place in the world.
Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude, argues that genuine gratitude requires two things:
- Affirming something good you’ve received or experienced
- Recognising that this source of goodness is outside of yourself (e.g. another person, higher power, etc.)
When these two things are present, then your gratitude becomes even more powerful and life-changing.
Why Gratitude is Important – The Many Benefits of Gratitude
By itself, gratitude already does a lot of good, making you and the giver feel good inside.
But there’s also more to gratitude than the positive emotions it creates in the moment. When practised regularly, gratitude also offers several benefits that can affect other aspects of your life.
Practising gratitude regularly has been shown to help:
- Reduce stress
- Improve mental health
- Increase joy and happiness
- Boosts self-esteem
- Strengthen your immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Make you feel more alive
- Strengthen your social network
- Build resilience
- Develop compassion for yourself and others
And all these benefits bring us to the supreme benefit and importance of practising gratitude, especially in today’s tough times:
Gratitude can improve your entire well-being.
By practising gratitude sincerely, you can uncover and create genuine positivity in your life, no matter what you’re feeling or what you’re going through.
And this force is powerful – powerful enough to change your life if you let it.
How to Start Practising Gratitude
If you’ve never practised gratitude before, don’t worry. There are many simple and easy ways to start building the gratitude habit.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Start a gratitude journal – A gratitude journal is an easy way to identify things that you are grateful for and realise them more clearly. Take a few minutes every day (ideally at the end of the day) to list down at least three things you are grateful for that day, no matter how big or small. As you keep doing it, you’ll realise better that there’s a lot to be thankful for in your life no matter how challenging it may be.
- Write a gratitude letter – Write a letter of gratitude to someone who did something for you that you are deeply grateful for but whom you did not get to thank properly in the past. Express your true gratitude in your letter and dedicate some time to deliver your letter to them personally. (If giving you letter in person is not possible, perhaps schedule a call or video chat instead.)
- Create a gratitude jar. Pick an empty jar and decorate it however you wish. Each day, write down on a piece of paper three things that you are grateful for. Fold or roll up the piece of paper and keep it in your gratitude jar. Do this every day and watch as your jar fills up. (Bonus benefit: if you’re particularly sad on any given day, picking up a few pieces from your gratitude jar and reading it can lift your spirit and improve your mood.)
No matter which option you choose, remember that the most important thing is to maintain the habit. The more you do it, the more natural it will be.
Practising Gratitude in Tough Times
It’s easy to be grateful during good times. In hard times like the one we have now? Not so much.
But it’s times like today that we need to practise gratitude more than ever.
Not only can practising gratitude help you manage the many challenges during this pandemic, but it can also help you orient yourself to make other positive changes in your life.
It’s this redirection and deep understanding of your place in the world that makes practising gratitude so powerful and life-changing.
And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before. Once you practise it sincerely, you can change your life for the better – whether you’re in a pandemic or not.