Gratitude. It’s the secret to health and happiness, and it’s
free and available any time. So why can it be so hard to do? Why aren’t we more
grateful? And what can we do about it?
Research tells us that practising gratitude boosts our
physical, mental and emotional health.
According to Robert Emmons, founding editor-in-chief of The
Journal of Positive Psychology, feeling grateful can lower your blood
pressure, improve your immunity and help you sleep better. It also reduces your
risk of depression and anxiety and boosts resilience.
Yet, when we try to practise gratitude in real life, it
often sparks a strange rebellion, like a child told to be grateful for
vegetables at dinner.
There are two reasons for this:
1. It can feel invalidating
If we try to be grateful without acknowledging the
challenges we’re facing or any difficult emotions we’re feeling, it can make us
2. We’re wired to look for danger
As humans, we’ve evolved because of our finely attuned
ability to identify and overcome threats. Our survival depended on us focusing
on things that were wrong, not on those that were right.
So how do we overcome these instinctive blocks to gratitude?
Here are three proven ways to boost your gratitude:
1. Let yourself feel the bad and the good.
Allow yourself to acknowledge other feelings – of sadness,
fear or anger, for example – even while you practise feeling grateful. You can
still look for things to be grateful for while admitting that life is hard
2. Make gratitude a habit. Robert Emmons, the gratitude
expert mentioned above, recommends setting aside time each week to write in a
gratitude journal. He also shares the tip that focusing on people has more
impact than focusing on things.
3. Go deep rather than wide. Emmons says focusing in depth
on one thing that you’re truly grateful for can have more benefit than trying
to think of a long list of superficial things.
So grab a piece of paper, or open the notes app on your
phone, and find one thing to be grateful for right now!
There are also dedicated gratitude apps that you can use.
Try searching for them in the App or Play stores.