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WORD OF THE MONTH: GRATITUDE    

WORD OF THE MONTH: GRATITUDE

Artwork by FISK

We know. Talking about gratitude this year feels… complicated. However, it’s important to remember that the times when we feel we have nothing to be grateful for are actually the best opportunities to develop gratitude. It’s not about “focusing on the bright side.” It’s about fostering appreciation for yourself, your strength, and your relationships, and then using that to build a more resilient mindset.  

Gratitude is an expression of appreciation, and the reason to do it is because it feels good. That’s backed by research. Psychology studies show that expressing gratitude yields important social and personal benefits. 

Still, fostering gratitude might feel like a tough feat right now. That’s okay. We all differ in the degree to which we experience and express gratitude. But the more we understand the concept, the better we can cultivate a practice of gratitude. Let’s jump in.

Is gratitude an emotion or a feeling? 

Both! And more! Gratitude is an emotion that makes you feel happier. It is also a feeling that is part of a mood and personality trait. By making a concerted effort to practice gratitude, it can become a habit that works its way into our everyday routines. 

Why should I do this in a year like this one?

It definitely isn’t easy, but if you do, it can help you reframe how your experience of this year. 

Gratitude helps widen our perspective and look at things broadly. By practicing a grateful perspective, you can feel an increased sense of positivity and well-being. It can also improve your confidence and relationships with others. 

It’s especially important in 2020 because when life is so uncertain, a gratitude practice can ground and stabilize us. It also builds resilience to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. 

Get specific. What are the benefits?

Studies show that over time gratitude can boost happiness; foster physical and psychological health, particularly for those with mental health challenges; and increase emotional intelligence.

On an even more granular level, people who practice gratitude may experience: 

  • Less pain
  • Less stress, aka lower cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Improved insomnia
  • Stronger immune systems
  • Healthier relationships
  • Better academic and professional performance

Another very important, though not often discussed, benefit is gratitude’s symbiotic nature. Gratitude is unique because it benefits you and the recipient equally. 

So much of mental health is about caring for ourselves in order to serve others. Gratitude does double duty in real time. We feel better as we express our gratitude to our loved ones, and they do as well. This results in tighter bonds, and more meaningful and lasting relationships, which is especially important in a time where so many of us are experiencing overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Okay, how do I do it? Where do I start?

You can start right here. All month, The Local Optimist will be focusing its stories on gratitude. We’ll get into everything from how mindfulness fosters greater gratitude to Gratitude 1-2-3 to practical tools and techniques. We’re also going to be talking to some great people and sharing stories on other aspects of life that tie into our gratitude and, as always, our mental health. 

We want to hear your stories, too. Share your journey and keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.

We’ve also put together a list of other resources that can help with your gratitude practice:

Three Positive Psychology Practices For Troubled Times

Local Optimist Gratitude Toolkit

Practicing Gratitude Is More Important Now Than Ever