During November, we celebrate Thanksgiving. All political and historical issues related to this holiday aside, the basic idea of a holiday that celebrates giving thanks and showing gratitude is actually kind of great. In fact, shifting our daily focus to include a greater level of gratitude and making time to show thanks and appreciation for the people in our lives can genuinely improve our outlook. In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at just what gratitude is and how it can improve our day-to-day lives. You can also learn more during therapy sessions with one of our knowledgeable clinicians.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a deep-seeded feeling of gratefulness for what we have and the people who are in our lives. It is usually developed over time by shifting perspective from striving for something that will make us happy (you know that self-talk where you say, if I just have this one more thing or achieve this goal I’ll be happy) to finding joy and fulfillment in what have. That doesn’t mean you no longer set and achieve goals or strive for self-improvement. Instead, you make time to recognize all the great things and people already in your life while you continue to move forward to achieve your life goals.
Are Thankfulness and Gratitude the Same Thing?
During Thanksgiving season, this may be a question at the front of your mind. Thankfulness and gratitude are often considered synonyms, and they share a lot of common ground. However, there are some differences between them. Dr. Robert Emmons describes gratitude as being external or internal. External gratitude is all about looking around you and recognizing the things and people in your life that bring you joy, comfort, or peace. Then, expressing that gratitude to them. This is what thankfulness is all about, taking the time to express our gratitude for the things and people in our lives that matter. Inner gratitude is typically what we mean when we talk about developing gratitude. It’s all about recognizing the intrinsic worth of the self, value of our lives, and beauty in every day. Sure, you may want or need to give thanks and express gratefulness externally as you develop deeper inner gratitude, but this inner form of gratitude is all about finding joy and meaning within.
How Is Gratitude Beneficial?
The attitude of gratitude culture has been a pop psychology/wellness trend for years, but knowledgeable psychological researchers have actually spent time studying the way that shifting focus toward gratitude can improve our day-to-day lives. Some of the benefits of gratitude uncovered by these researchers include:
- Shifting focus from negative to positive thinking. Instead of negative thinking like, “I need to stop surrounding myself with toxic people,” a gratitude-focused thought process may sound like, “I am so lucky to have friends like [insert great friend here], I need to spend more time with them.”
- Increasing self-confidence. It’s easy to look mistakes we’ve made or miscalculations and start extrapolating that we don’t make good decisions or can’t make the right choices, which can leave us feeling less confident. Gratitude takes the focus off of things that have gone wrong to being grateful for what we have. So, if you messed up a task at work, you may be thinking, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this correctly and my boss noticed.” A gratitude mindset says, “I’m grateful that my boss noticed my mistake before it became a bigger problem, and now, I have an opportunity to learn and do better.”
- Improving relationships. If you’re struggling during the holidays with all that family time, your romantic partnership doesn’t seem to be heading in the direction you want, or you never feel like you do enough to sustain friendships, shifting to a gratitude focus can make a huge difference. At holiday gatherings if your family is stressing you out, take a deep breath and list a few things you’re grateful for. If you and your romantic partner are constantly bickering, approach your next discussion with gratitude. Take a few moments to list out a few things about them you’re grateful for. Finally, if your friendships are struggling, let your close friends know that you appreciate them. We all like to know that we’re appreciated, so make sure your loved ones know that they matter to you.
Want to Start Shifting to a Gratitude Focus?
Just to be clear, it’s not easy to make this shift to focus more on gratitude. It takes time, but the practice will definitely benefit you in all areas of your life. Working with a therapist is actually a great way to develop a gratitude mindset. Shifting to a focus on gratitude is one of the many ways that we help our clients improve mood, create a greater sense of stability, and increase resilience during difficult times. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Central Arkansas Group Counseling to get started shifting to a gratitude focus.