Our fickle lives - how to foster gratitude

Not your normal Xmas advice

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The festive season is well and truly upon us and it this time of the year I generally dole out the ‘tips to stay healthy’ over the course. Not this year.

The other day as I wasted time scrolling through photos on Instagram, I was really struck by the two images shown above. They followed each other, one after the other in my feed. The first advised people how to keep healthy whilst travelling through the Thanksgiving period in the US. The next image shows people travelling for an entirely different reason – their survival. I must say I kind of felt like I had been slapped in the face a little bit. The trivial things I tend to focus and worry about pale into insignificance when someone may be faced with having to leave their homes, either through natural disaster or man made conflict.

Should I then start to feel guilty because I get down and yet I have so much? I’m not sure how helpful that is to be honest.

Sooooooooooo, I got to thinking a bit more and even though there is tons written about it and it may sound a little ‘hippy dippy’, would I be better served to start thinking about all the good stuff in my life and how I may be able to give back a little? Probably!

Given the time of the year and that many people find their stress levels rise, maybe it’s time to spend a little moment in reflection and consider all the good stuff that has happened this year. I think it’s called…gratitude (and science will back me up on the benefits – not such a hippy after all).

Proven Benefits of Gratitude

1. Improves your physical health

Grateful people have less aches and pains. If you are practicing a little gratitude, it has been shown that you are more likely to be taking care of your health.

2. Improves your psychological health

Gratitude helps to get rid of lots of those lovely toxic emotions that tend to hold us back, weigh us down and get in the way of us realising our highest potential. Studies show that gratitude helps us to be happier and reduces depression. Huzzah!

3. Helps you sleep better

TOP TIP: Before going to bed, jot down 5-10 things that you feel grateful for. Apparently it will help you sleep better and longer.

4. Improves self-esteem

As many of you know, my first rule when you come to see me is, ‘be kind to yourself’. I often say that I would never talk to another human the way I talk to myself.

Studies show that by practicing gratitude it reduces resentment towards other. I think this is because we stop the ‘compareitis’ (the disease of comparing ourselves to others). “Oh they have a better job, more money, are better looking than me”. It turns out that gratitude helps us to appreciate others accomplishments thereby feeling better about ourselves.

5. It fosters resilience

For years studies have shown that gratitude helps with stress, but it can also help us overcome trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.

6. Reduces aggression and enhances empathy

Practicing gratitude has been shown that we respond better to negative feedback and are less likely to want to exact revenge on the person who offered up the feedback. I’m clearly prone to being ungrateful and commit to being more so by removing the dead fish I put in my brother’s wardrobe last week after being given some feedback from him that I felt was a little harsh!

How then do we foster an ‘attitude of gratitude’? Check out the next blog post for ideas on how to develop this most important of skills.