We might look at gratitude as an intellectual idea, maybe even a cliché. But the truth is that when we feel happiness, we are calmer and less reactive — and gratitude is the most effective way into this chilled out space. What’s more, everyone has the power to tap into this space, and the more familiar this feeling becomes, the more time we are likely to spend experiencing it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tiny inconveniences of life: the frustrating morning commute, the annoying email from a colleague, the missing item from a takeout order. Our minds seemingly have no issue reacting to everyday nuisances, but we spend little time naturally appreciating the right things, big or small.
This month we’re going to explore gratitude. When pandemic rules began to loosen earlier this year, personally I felt a small burst of joy each time I did something that had been off-limits for months. With the rollout of the vaccines, once-mundane activities became almost wondrous.
Hugging my parents and friends. Getting a haircut. Wandering the aisles of the grocery store.
But as my new routine became, well, routine, that extra boost of pleasure faded away. But there’s a way to replicate that post-lockdown delight — by practicing gratitude.
This November we’re going to look at gratitude and why experts from scientists to Buddhist monks link gratitude to fewer health problems, less depression, better sleep and higher levels of happiness. After all, we could all use an extra boost of happy.
And just like that, we’re done with the month of November! Maybe you’re coming off a hectic month at work, or feeling that holiday surge — it’s an easy time to feel overwhelmed. Take a breath and remember that among all that hustle, there have also been moments — no matter how fleeting — of calm and happiness.
If feeling appreciative for acts of kindness, glimpses of beauty, and the people and experiences that bring joy to our lives makes us happier, then why reserve it for just one day of the year, like we do on Thanksgiving? This month we’ve explored gratitude and reflection and how to make it part of daily or weekly routine.
Still finding it difficult to carve out that gratitude practice? Many social psychologists believe that gratitude isn’t our default setting. For survival purposes, humans were designed with instincts sensitive to the merest whiff of anything amiss. Our ancestors were hardwired — not so much to appreciate a magnificent sunset, but to scan for a shadowy presence that could indicate danger. Psychologists think this tendency to live more fully in our negative emotions rather than in our positive ones is an inherited evolutionary predisposition.
To shift our focus takes a little effort. And, as with all types of habits, the more we practice it, the easier and more natural it becomes. The duration of your practise is not important; what matters is consistency, which is key. Whether it’s a few minutes each day, or once a week, the more appreciative moments we create for ourselves and the more we make a habit of giving thanks, the more we reap the benefits.