Gratitude is grounding, perspective-shifting, and humbling.
According to Cicero, the Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer, gratitude is more than “the greatest virtue,” it is also “the mother of all other remaining virtues.” Even in 2020, amidst an ongoing global pandemic, gratitude is one of the many buzzwords of late, rubbing shoulders with the likes of mindfulness, journaling, intermittent fasting, and deep breathing. And for very good reason.
Actively practicing giving thanks invites us to look more closely at our surroundings. We also turn inwards to ourselves in the process. An attitude of gratitude is one in which we open our eyes wide to appreciate all the good in our lives and what we may have been overlooking.
Gratitude has deep roots in our spiritual and philosophical history, and in our evolution in terms of DNA, brain structure, and childhood development.
As human beings, we have a tendency to see the glass as half empty. We toy with the notion that the grass is greener on the other side rather than reflecting on all we have. In many ways, it’s our human nature, social conditioning, and genetic makeup all mixed together fueled further in our Instagram age. But looking to what others have as a source of gauging our own happiness is one of the surest ways to feel miserable.
Over the past two decades, scientists have made great strides toward understanding the biological roots of gratitude, the various benefits that accompany gratitude, and the ways that people can cultivate this practice in their day-to-day lives.
Recent research from the University of Twente has found that actively reminding yourself to be more thankful can help people to feel better and increase mental resilience. The study, which involved 217 participants, shows that a six-week training in which individuals practiced gratitude led to a notable increase in their sense of well-being. The effect on well-being in the gratitude group was evident for up to six months after the training. Professor Ernst Bohlmeijer at the University of Twente, discussed this further: “Training gratitude is not a trick to be happy quickly. It is developing a new attitude to life. Life becomes less self-evident and that makes people more flexible.”
Gratitude practices, like keeping a “gratitude journal” or writing a letter can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood. One study from Harvard University found that more grateful cardiac patients reported better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation, while another found that heart failure patients who kept a gratitude journal for eight weeks were more grateful and had reduced signs of inflammation afterward.
Given its role in generating positive feelings it should not be surprising that evidence points to gratitude’s social benefits as well. Research suggests that gratitude inspires people to be more generous, kind, and helpful, and in turn, strengthens relationships, including those with whom we work.
Gratitude is not only during “the good times”…
Psychological research has also shown that more grateful people experience less depression and are more emotionally resilient following challenging, and traumatic events. Viktor Emil Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, author, and Holocaust survivor, described in his groundbreaking book “Man’s Search for Meaning” how the extreme deprivation and evil experienced within the concentration camps was reframed by being grateful “for the smallest of mercies”.
Build your gratitude practice with Kai.
With Kai you’ll regularly receive reminders to practice gratitude, alongside questions about the different aspects of life for which you’re grateful. The backbone of any habit is commitment and consistency, and Kai is designed to help make it easier to build that habit and add to your daily wellness routine.
- Start with a List
The beginning of any gratitude practice starts with identifying what you’re grateful for. You want to be able to identify everything that is good in your life, and the things and people that make you feel positive, happy, and motivated.
- Write It Down
Instead of making your list in your head, put pen to paper or write in your Kai journal. This helps clarify your thoughts and also allows you to go back and reflect on them later.
- Be Specific
The more specific you are in your gratitude practice, the more you’ll be able to see all the things you are grateful for in your life. Having a clear vision makes it easier to condition our subconscious to help us recreate these experiences. It’s as if you’re telling your higher-self ‘give more of this‘.
- Be Consistent
With Kai, you can integrate gratitude into your daily routine. Plus, keeping gratitude at the forefront of your mind will help you develop a positive attitude in the long run.
- Keep It Fresh
Try to find a few new things each day to be grateful for. It can be as simple as better weather or a positive conversation with your boss.
- Be Flexible
Positive thinking is at the core of any gratitude practice, so be gentle with yourself, seeing this activity as something enriching and not a chore. If you are feeling low and feeling stuck on things to be thankful for, don’t force it.