Have you ever thought mindfully about how fortunate you are? Look around you and you will see the countless blessings that you are bestowed with.
There’s food on the table, a home to live in, all the wonderful people around you, and amazing nature that spreads so much beauty and abundance to share.
Unfortunately, in this world of chaos and competition, we overlook these blessings and negativity creeps in, on us, slowly. We tend to become competitive, regrettably, not in a healthy way. We become jealous of others’ successes causing anger, hatred, stress and anxiety leading to depression and vice versa.
Moreover, the present-day world with COVID-19 has deprived us of a normal social life. We feel isolated. This isolation also arouses pessimistic thoughts. The deaths of our beloved ones make us sad. Overwhelmed by these, it’s difficult to see the positives.
All these have detrimental impacts on our mental and physical health. There’s a simple practice which can helpfully minimise these damaging feelings and build resilience against these: Gratitude.
There may be different definitions but the basic idea is the appreciation of the meaningful things in your life. These may not necessarily be material possessions. Gratitude is a positive emotional reaction towards happy incidents, invaluable things, a benefactor, the Universe and especially our Creator.
In most religions, gratitude plays a unique role as a foundation for having a good life.
‘Gratitude is the best medicine. It heals your mind, your body and your spirit, and attracts more things to be grateful for. When we choose to focus on what’s right, the law of attraction ensures that we receive more of it.’
Despite being a simple concept, the benefits of gratitude are enormous. Innumerable studies have shown that gratitude can bring a variety of physical, psychological, emotional and social benefits.
The brain is a powerful organ. An article by McCraty and Colleagues (1998), The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How it Affects Anxiety and Grief, explains how people who feel grateful show a significant reduction in one of the stress hormones, cortisol. With reduced stress hormones and proper management of the nervous system, gratitude can play a positive role in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety resulting in more positive emotions, becoming more resilient in adverse situations and improving mental and physical health.
There’s also scientific evidence that practising gratitude has a calming effect on the mind: improves sleep and self-esteem, boosts the immune system, lowers stress levels and blood pressure, lessens pain, reduces the chances of diabetes and heart diseases; lessens suicidal thoughts or mental illness; reduces harmful emotions like envy, anger, jealousy and regret.
Gratitude fosters greater happiness.
When you’re content naturally you become more compassionate and acquire empathy. It helps to perceive kindness. This creates a positive chain reaction improving relationships among family and friends, neighbours and colleagues and building a strong community feeling. The spiritual benefits of gratitude are that it can make us feel more connected to each other, to the universe; more importantly towards our Creator. The more grateful you are, the more you will receive.
Empathy can make you more effective as a manager. Enhanced focus leads to better decisions. As gratitude increases self-esteem and reduces insecurity, it can help focus and improve productivity and enhance job satisfaction.
Practising gratitude on daily basis can have tremendous mental and physical health benefits. It’s a greatly rewarding process.
There are a few simple strategies that can help you acquire the habit of gratitude.
1. Expressing gratitude to a higher power through prayers can be a profound way to evoke a sense of self-fulfilment. You can simply thank God for being alive.
2. Morning is often the best time to practice gratitude meditation. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and think of your accomplishments, your journey to where you have reached. Think of the negative things also and how you overcame those. It will strengthen your self-esteem.
3. Keep a diary and write at least three things every day that you’re grateful for. A study showed that people who made a daily list of things they were grateful for, even if small, reported a significant increase in happiness and life satisfaction after just 2 weeks.
4. Whenever something good happens or you feel thankful for something, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. When you’re sad, pick out one of the papers and read it.
5. Express gratitude to the universe and it will reciprocate and give back in abundance.
6. Express gratitude to your loved ones for being there for you. Thank others genuinely. If you cannot thank someone personally or feel that you haven’t thanked someone properly in your life, then thank them in your mind or write them a letter of gratitude. It will help strengthen your relationships.
7. Take a moment to thank God for the food and all necessities of life bestowed on you.
8. Surround yourself with pictures of people, pets, or places that inspire your feelings of gratitude.
9. Acts of gratitude can be used to apologize, make amends and help solve other problems
10. Volunteer to help those in need. It can inspire you to reflect on your circumstances and bring a sense of compassion for humanity.
11. If someone has done something nice for you, no matter how small, be grateful. If you’ve carried out an act of kindness, celebrate the experience.
12. The world around us is amazingly beautiful. Be grateful to Mother Nature for the abundant blessings you are gifted with.
World Gratitude Day is held on Sept 21 since 1977, after a resolution was passed during a ceremony in the United Nations building honouring Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader. The day brings together individuals, people, organisations and countries around the world to mutually share their gratitude in different ways.
The day is a reminder for all to practise gratitude in daily life.
Counting your blessings, by focusing on the many gifts you regularly receive, is a good way to start your day. When you make an effort to focus your mind and thoughts on things you are grateful for, you'll start to notice more things to be grateful for. A grateful heart creates miracles. Your positive feelings of gratitude will begin to flow more easily and naturally. It will help you to be happier, more compassionate and forgiving; transform your mind and improve your physical and mental health, improve relationships and overall well-being. Gratitude creates a circle that touches everyone around us.
Be grateful for what you have. You will end up having more.Oprah Winfrey
Let’s be grateful to those around us who bestow us with so much. Express gratitude to the Supreme Power who has blessed us with all the wonderful things in our lives.
Life is Beautiful.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own. It is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licensed healthcare practitioner.
[Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed and fiction writer, translator and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.]
1. Nicola, Stephanie, How to Foster Gratitude, Webmed, Aug 24 , 2021
2. Gratitude and resilience go hand in hand, Positive consultancy blog.
3. World Gratitude Day, Celebrate Every Day.