What’s an Attitude of Gratitude?

"Joy comes to us in moments--ordinary moments.
We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy
chasing down the extraordinary.”

Brene Brown - Researcher & Author

Lately, I have noticed the word gratitude popping up a lot. In my Facebook feed and in magazines I am reading. I was curious what does it mean, and so I decided to dig a bit deeper, to get a better understanding.

My hunt for gratitude, began with understanding what it is, and I discovered that it is a state, and it is also a trait. You can have the characteristic of gratitude, and you can also experience gratitude in a particular moment. (Jans-Beken et al., 2020).  

A little confused, I was, and so the exploring continued.  I learned that in positive psychology gratitude is identified as a key to building positive emotions, it’s bigger than just giving thanks it’s about celebrating the good things in life. (Seligman et al., 2005).

I found that gratitude needs to be practiced regularly, and given freely, with no strings attached (Bouchrika., 2023) Also the benefits are far reaching not only your health but also relationships and your workplace. (Black Dog Institute., n.d.). Still not sure how to embrace this attitude of gratitude, I looked for a technique or activity that might help.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Jeremy Sutton in an article for positive psychology talks about writing a gratitude letter and explains how it works.

  1. You find someone who has had a positive impact on your life, who you appreciate and would like to thank. 
  2. You write a letter to that person telling them why you value them and what they have done, it only needs to be about 300 words, be precise. 
  3. You share your letter with the person you wrote it to, this may not always be the right thing to do, you decide.

I felt I was getting closer, but I wasn’t quite sure, how could expressing your gratitude make a difference? I continued my hunt.

I watched a Ted Talk, Robert Biswas Diener explains our happiest moments are behind us and when we dig and remember them, they bring us joy and gratitude, then I had a lightbulb moment, a memory…

My parents had come for a visit a few years ago, both in their 80’s mum was quite sprightly but dad was declining due to Alzheimer’s. We finished lunch and dad was congratulating my husband on his handiwork around the house. My husband sat with dad and thanked him for all that he had taught him. It wasn’t just a ‘thanks dad’, it was a heartfelt explanation of what it had meant to my husband to have my dad, share his knowledge and skills, in a moment when dad was able to still understand. That memory is bittersweet, dad has since passed away however we still talk about it and when I think of that moment I am filled with gratitude and joy for my father, and my husband.

Now I think I get it, it’s about taking the time to not take things for granted and reflecting on what is good in my life.

I hope my hunt for gratitude helps you to discover your own attitude of gratitude.

References:

Armenta, Fritz, M. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). Functions of positive emotions: Gratitude as a motivator of self-improvement and positive change. Emotion Review, 9(3), 183–190. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073916669596

Black Dog Institute (n.d.). Gratitude. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/wellbeing/improve-wellbeing/gratitude/

Brown, B. (2012) Daring Greatly. p125, Penguin.

Bouchrika, I. (2023, Feb 23). 35 Scientific Benefits of Gratitude: Mental Health Research Findings. Research.com. https://research.com/education/scientific-benefits-of-gratitude

Higgins, R. (2017, August, 24)  Confused, Hands, Up image [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/confused-hands-up-unsure-perplexed-2681507/

Jans-Beken, Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L., & Lataster, J. (2020). Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 15(6), 743–782. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1651888

Reche, D. (2017, August, 21) Woman, Sky, Sunlight image [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-sky-sunlight-arms-open-arms-26674

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410

Sutton, J. (2019, March 9). Letters of gratitude: how to write a message of appreciation. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-messages-letters-lists/

TEDx Talks. (2014, May 3). Your Happiest Days are Behind You. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QTVv9tAlIE

What’s an Attitude of Gratitude?

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