The surprising power of gratitude

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Gratitude has its origin in the Latin word, gratus, which means 'grateful'. The Merriam-Webster dictionary explains that words from the Latin gratus have something to do with being pleasing or being thankful. To ingratiate yourself is to make others feel thankful for something you've done. To feel grateful is to feel thankful for something. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness. To congratulate is to express how pleasing someone's success is.

From nations that celebrate Thanksgiving holiday to religious faithfuls, clerics and self-help experts who continually emphasise the need to appreciate what we have instead of grieving over what we don't have, everyone recognises the power of gratitude.

Researchers have taken the conversation even further with experiments that examine the impact of gratitude on the brain, social life and our general well-being. In today's world where most of us are obsessed with seeking more and more it's easy to overlook the blessings that are right in front of us and within us. It is therefore even more important now than ever to deliberately cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We shouldn't have to lose what we have before we develop a sense of appreciation.

Appreciate what you have

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Gratitude or gratefulness is about expressing appreciation for what we have instead of being taken over by what we want. Researchers have shown that we can live happier and more fulfilling lives by deliberately cultivating gratitude. Being thankful for what we have and the contributions of other people to our lives will not only increase our energy but also help us develop a more optimistic and empathetic approach to life.

We shouldn't have to lose what we have before we develop a sense of appreciation. Click To Tweet

We may not be able to express gratitude for all that life brings our way at every point in time; yet at every point in time there's always something to be grateful for. In other words, we cannot give thanks for every situation but we can give thanks in every situation. Gratitude is not just an act or an emotion; it is an attitude that challenges us to consciously recognise all that has been made available to us, not taking anything for granted. And as Eckhart Tolle observed, acknowledging the good that you already have is the foundation for all abundance."

Gratitude increases our energy and helps us develop a more optimistic approach to life. Click To Tweet

Even when things are not turning out as desired, gratitude increases our awareness and puts us in a position where we can take advantage of opportunities to learn, grow and reach out to others. No matter how unfulfilled we may feel, we should appreciate the fact that life itself is a gift and this awareness should move us to express gratitude not just as an emotion but as a disposition that we have adopted by choice.

While several studies have demonstrated the link between gratitude and benefits like greater achievement of goals, decreased anxiety, a more positive approach to life and several other benefits for those who practise it, you need to also understand that gratitude is not all about you. When you are grateful you are not only helping yourself, you are helping others too.

We may not always be grateful for all that life brings our way at every point in time; yet at every point in time there's always something to be grateful for. Click To Tweet

By thanking people who have enriched your life in various ways you are acknowledging that there's some good in the world. Your benefactors are encouraged to do more and you would likely want to return the favour or extend it to others. This creates a loop of reciprocity that lifts our spirits. We cannot practise gratitude as a lifestyle and experience depression. The two simply can't exist together.

To wrap up this piece I invite you to thoughtfully consider the words of Michael Josephson: "The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it."

Question: What are you grateful for? Share with us in the comments.

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