Gratitude is a very important aspect of emotional health. More than just saying “thanks” when someone gives you a gift or holds a door, practicing gratitude is about looking on the bright side and not taking the good things in our lives for granted.
While many of us know the manners and protocol of gratitude, if you don’t regularly practice it, it can be hard to learn. Welcome to Gratitude Training 101.
The Difference Between Feeling And Expressing Gratitude
The first step to understanding gratitude is to separate the act from the manners that we are all taught. Manners are important and you shouldn’t leave them behind, but manners are an outward action and gratitude is, in essence an inward action.
The manners that we are taught about gratitude are the means of making people aware of our gratitude, but gratitude is something that happens within us and is very much about ourselves.
Gratitude is the acknowledgement that something -- a physical thing, a situation, anything – is good for us.
Because many of us are taught manners but not gratitude, we know that we are supposed to express gratitude when someone does something for us or gives something to us. Gratitude is also important to feel when something good happens, even if no human is seen as being directly responsible.
How To Express Gratitude
Because of how closely gratitude and manners are linked in most cultures, it can be awkward for many of us to experience or express gratitude when we can’t link a human factor to the good thing that has happened. How do you express gratitude in these situations, and is it even important?
Expressing gratitude is important, even if there’s no one responsible to express it to. It makes us feel better. It also helps us to experience gratitude by, in a way, creating a habit of gratitude. After a while you start to look for it instead of waiting for it, making you happier yet.
So how do you express gratitude when you aren’t expressing it to anyone? It can be as simple as taking a moment of silent reflection to appreciate what has happened or something that you have.
If you are religious, you can thank God or your higher power to express your gratitude. If you aren’t religious, try spreading the word by sharing your good news with family, friends, coworkers, anyone.
Another way to express gratitude is to “pay it forward.” This system of behavior involves expressing gratitude by doing something nice for someone else. This helps to improve someone else’s day by sharing your newfound “wealth.” Just as you always have something to be grateful for, you always have something that you can give.
Things Anyone Can Be Grateful For
If you’re a little lost about what you would have to express gratitude for if someone didn’t do something for you, that’s understandable. It all has to do with the way that we have been taught to express gratitude as a form of manners – it's kind of taken the meaning out of gratitude.
You can – and should – be grateful for all kinds of things. That’s what makes it so great: there’s always something to be grateful for.
Be grateful for the love and support of your family or time with friends. Be grateful for your food and shelter, for the paycheck that bought it and the job that earned it. Be grateful for your health. Some people would say that you can be grateful for everything.
This is even true when things seem to be going poorly. If you have lost your job, be grateful that you have an opportunity to start things over. If you are hard on cash, be grateful for the opportunity to re-evaluate your value system.
Be grateful for the warmth of the sun or the beauty of the snow. It can be hard to think that way, but gratitude is as much about looking for the sun on cloudy days as it is about feeling the sun on a clear day. That’s what makes it so powerful.
Sometimes gratitude is easy. Sometimes it is awkward. Sometimes it seems hard. Gratitude, however, only makes situations better and the more you look for it the easier it is to find.
By practicing gratitude in your everyday life, you can become a happier person.