In the light of the tragic events occurring due to COVID-19, from economic hardships to civil unrest, now may seem like an unusual time to talk about ‘gratitude’. Be that as it may, one of the useful aspects of acknowledging gratitude is for its ability to counter the struggles, difficult thoughts and feelings that you may currently be facing.
Gratitude is the feeling for something in our lives that we are thankful for and appreciation is when we express gratitude to others.
When I meet with some of my clients, I sometimes ask them what is it that they are grateful for, and while some might respond that they are grateful for having a job or being healthy, others might say they are grateful for their friends or for their family. What these answers reveal, to a certain extent, about the priorities and societal values, is that no matter the hurdles and challenges we encounter, we still maintain a glimpse of hope and gratitude.
In addition, these answers reveal who we are as a society and often reflect the statement by Economist Adam Smith who said that gratitude is the most sacred of all duties. Empirical science also concurs that expressing gratitude or even a simple ‘thank you’ is a powerful societal tool, one that acts to instinctively link us together.
Furthermore, decades of research show that practising gratitude not only helps with our immune system, personal health and overall well-being, it is also directly and indirectly linked with our relationships to others in society.
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people acknowledge and feel more positive emotions, appreciate and relish good experiences. It also allows us to communicate in an effective and positive way to one another, which can cultivate and strengthen relationships and perceptions in a positive way.
In order to reach gratitude and move away from feelings of stress, sadness, frustration or just being in a ‘funk’, one can apply a ‘Gratitude Hand Exercise’. You and your children can practise this exercise wherever you are. Take a moment and reflect as you bring up your hand and remember that:
1. Your pinky finger represents everything small that you are grateful for or things we usually take for granted like shoes on our feet or running water. Every time you look at your pinky, list the small things you are grateful for.
2. The ring finger represents the relationships that you are grateful for such as your family, friends, mentors and colleagues. Every time you look at your ring finger, list all the relationships you are grateful for.
3. The middle finger is a reminder to give someone else a compliment, whoever needs it or deserves it. For example, you can compliment someone by sending out an email, text, or private message via social media platforms. Every time you look at your middle finger, ask yourself, ‘Who can I compliment today?’
4. The pointing finger is a reminder to point out the beauty around you. Everybody has their own idea of what beauty is and so you get to choose. Take a moment to look around what beauty is surrounding you. This can be a beautiful piece of art, something in nature or anything that you think is beautiful. As you focus on your pointing finger, name the beauties that are surrounding you right now.
5. Your thumb is a reminder to be kind to yourself. Ask yourself ‘What kind words can I say to myself right now?’ Often, we are quite critical and hard on ourselves. It is good to check in with yourself and treat yourself with love, kindness, compassion, and give yourself a ‘thumbs up’.
Never underestimate the value of gratitude and its ability to lift you up!