The Importance of Being Grateful

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Saying thank you is something that we do frequently, but I fear that most of the time we do it mindlessly. Do we really feel its meaning ? Do we really experience gratefulness when we say these words?

What I perceive, at least from my experience, is that sometimes we are just too used to the words thank you that we forget about their powerful meaning. It happens something similar when we say sorry (sometimes more than needed). But let’s keep this for another time.

I’m going straight to the point: why is gratefulness so important? Why it makes us feel so good? Is it something beneficial for our bodies?

Today I want to focus on the moments in which we genuinely feel grateful. The times when you mindlessly say “thanks a lot” to a workmate or to the cashier at the supermarket don’t count. Of course I’m not saying that you don’t have to give thanks to them; I’m just saying that most of the time, we don’t really feel the meaning of those words.

I don’t want to fall into clichés and preach the importance of little details in our lives we have to be grateful for. We already know that, and constantly forget.

Let’s go directly to the benefits that being grateful brings to our psychology and to our bodies.

  • It enhances our positive emotions . The first and most visible effect of gratitude is that it has a strong positive impact on our inner well-being. How does it happen? Being grateful releases a rush of neurotransmitters that increase our positive emotions and keep depression away. In other words, it is scientifically proven that experiencing gratitude increases our well-being;
  • Gratitude makes us more effective. One of its practical effects is that people around us perceive it. When someone is experiencing sincere gratitude, he’s seen as a reliable and serious person, and people tend to give him more important tasks. You see, being grateful can help you in obtaining that job promotion you have always dreamed of!
  • By practising gratitude, we feel more connected with others. Indeed, we experience empathy and improve the quality of our connections: job-related relationships, friendships, romantic relationships. Have you ever noticed that the most thankful people are also the ones with the highest number of good-quality relationships?
  • Experiencing deep feelings of thankfulness improves our self-esteem. It’s a loop. As we have already pointed out, being grateful can improve our professional and personal life. This, in turn, makes us more fulfilled: who doesn’t want a rewarding career and a life full of healthy relationships?
  • Being grateful lowers our anxiety. Have you noticed that when you’re angry at someone you can’t sleep well? Do you ever feel nervous and try to solve this by eating junk food or smoking a lot of cigarettes? It is well-known, already: negative emotions create a general situation of stress in our bodies. This leads to several disorders in the most sensitive people (anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems). When we are grateful, we also tend to let go of our anger. It is very difficult, I know: but what if, instead of being mad at that person who told us something offensive, we are thankful because we understood something important about ourselves? Criticism is good, sometimes, to make us work on ourselves and overcome our limits.
  • Sincere gratitude make us giving more. The more you give, the more you get. If you give and you don’t expect anything in return, you will get more than you ever imagined!

So, the next questions arises. How to practice gratitude? We don’t have to go that far: the easiest thing is to start by keeping a gratitude journal. That means to keep track, on a daily basis, of all the things we are grateful for. This exercise is simple, funny, and makes us aware of little details we often tend to forget. Like the smell of the meal that our loved ones are cooking for us, or the warm water that caresses us while having a shower.

To be honest, the Internet is full of recipes and exercises on how to practice gratitude: I don’t want to add more to this massive amount of information. Here are some tips to be more mindful towards gratefulness.

Leave a gratitude post-it to your colleagues or house mates, sing a song to someone as a way to say “thank you”, bake a cake for someone, not necessarily a friend, volunteer (at a music festival, in a kindergarten, in a permaculture farm, anywhere you want!), take care of a pet or a plant…

In conclusion, there are so many things we can do to enhance this feeling of being grateful, but the most important thing is to deeply feel it.

Next time you say “thank you”, try to experience the feeling, to embody it.

What to say? A big (and heartfelt!) thank you for reading this post. If you think it could help anyone, feel free to share it!

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