Since I have started thinking about what I am grateful for, I have become a happier person overall. When you think about how grateful you are for what you have now instead of about how much you want other things, then you will realize that your life isn’t so bad. The grass is always greener on the other side. Someone gave me the example of a guy having a $300,000 house but he was unhappy with that house because he wanted a $500,000 house. Instead of enjoying the house he has and being grateful for it, he is unhappy because he doesn’t have something else. There was nothing wrong with the house he was currently living in. He was just always looking for the next best thing instead of living in the moment and enjoying what he had already.
The practice of gratitude is a big part of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with a focus on building the good instead of repairing the bad. It focuses on positive experiences, traits, states, and institutions. One of those states is gratitude. I will try to share more about positive psychology in another post, but the rest of this post will focus on the intersection of gratitude and positive psychology.
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, there are two stages of gratitude in the study of positive psychology. The first stage is acknowledging the good in your life. This stage is thinking about everything that makes your life worth living. The next stage of gratitude is acknowledging that not all sources are from us. There are other people, places, or things that we have no control over that we can be great full for.
Gratitude works because it is an act done with no expectations of return. It affects two different processes: catharsis and reciprocity. Catharsis is the process in which you release strong emotions. By using gratitude when being cathartic you feel more satisfied than if you were to cry or scream as a way to release the emotions. Reciprocity is the exchanging of actions. For example, when you feel grateful to someone for something they did for you, you are more likely to reciprocate and do something nice for them.
In conclusion, gratitude has a way of not only affecting your mental well-being, but it can also affect those that are on the receiving end. I challenge you to turn negative emotions into gratitude and see how that changes your mindset. Be grateful for what you have everyday and I promise you that you will love your life even more.