We all take things for granted without thinking about it, but did you know that feeling gratitude and savoring what we have is linked to mental well-being?
It's human nature to take things for granted. When we get used to having something, we forget it's a blessing and take it for granted. We literally don’t think about it. And because we don’t think about it, we don’t appreciate it. But this habit can make our lives a bit flat, distort reality and breed dissatisfaction.
Researchers are finding that, in contrast, feeling and expressing gratitude enhances our lives in many ways.
THE TRANSFORMATIONAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED AND FEELING GRATITUDE
Where ever we are in life, we can transform ourselves and our lives by replacing our habit of taking things for granted with practicing gratitude. When things aren’t going well in one or more areas of our life, it can be challenging to feel and practice gratitude, but there is always something we can feel gratitude for and start to improve our situation.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are real and measurable. Research has shown that expressing gratitude reduces depression, anxiety, and aggression. On the flip side gratitude interventions increase positive emotion, self-esteem, empathy, and a sense of optimism.
When we replace negative emotions with positive emotions, we also improve our physical health. And it doesn't stop with us. Researchers have found that regularly practicing gratitude even enhances our relationships with others.
PRACTICING GRATITUDE IN EVERYDAY LIFE
The things we take for granted are the things we forget that we are blessed with. And while they seem normal to us, others aren’t so fortunate. When we’re healthy, it's easy to forget that some people live with pain and disabilities. When we have a supportive family, it’s easy to forget that some people’s families are broken. Our health, the food on our plate, a roof over our head, access to the internet, the clothes on our backs, and even sunshine are blessings.
In fact, every day brings with it an invitation to practice gratitude. We take each new day for granted, but in reality, it is a gift. Not everyone wakes up. And each new day brings with it an opportunity to begin again, to create the life you want, to live a life of purpose and meaning. No matter how yesterday went, today is a new day to create in a new way. And that is something to feel gratitude for.
And its our bodies that carry us through each new day. It is our bodies that enable us to live and act in this world. It is our bodies that enable us to feel the warmth of the sun, smell the fresh scent of a rose, swim in the sea, taste a strawberry smoothy, run up a mountain and listen to our favourite music. Our bodies give us so much to be thankful for. An yet we take them for granted. Worse still we tend to spend a lot of time criticizing them!
IT’S NOT ONLY THE LITTLE THINGS THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED
There are many things that have been there for as long as we can remember and form the backdrop to our lives. I live in a stable society where freedom of speech is valued. That means I have the freedom to think, the freedom to live in a meaningful way to me, the freedom to debate, and the freedom to create and express what’s important to me. These are big things that have a massive impact on how we live our lives. But not everybody has these freedoms. Life without these freedoms looks very different. I am truly grateful for the freedom to live my life in a way that is meaningful to me.
Nature is another thing that’s always been there. The sunrises, the sunsets, the seasons, and all the wonderful cycles of life. Mother nature is the nourisher and healer of our body and soul. Without Mother nature we are nothing, we would not exist. Nature is our life source but we take it for granted. If you don’t feel gratitude to Mother Nature the chances are, you’re probably not in nature enough to feel its abundant gifts and magical energy. I encourage you to get out there and soak up the wonderful energy of nature.
We tend to think of gratitude as a feeling but there are many ways we can practice gratitude in our daily lives. And the more we practice gratitude the more positive feelings we have and the better overall mental health, and physical health benefits.
If you’re committed to improving your wellbeing levels through practicing gratitude, gratitude journaling will help you to stay focused and on track. It's important to not just go through the motions of writing what you’re grateful for but to actually feel grateful. Instead of writing a list each day write about one or two things. Or better still one or two people and why you are grateful they are in your life.
If the idea of writing a daily gratitude journal doesn’t resonate with you, try writing gratitude letters once a month instead. Research suggests that writing a gratitude letter and delivering it in person increases wellbeing levels for several weeks.
If you’re creative, you could try gratitude practice in more creative ways like gratitude mapping or a gratitude scrapbook. We can also practice gratitude by giving gifts of gratitude like flowers or something we’ve made and by tipping our servers.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE AND ENHANCE YOUR LIFE
Cultivating gratitude is a simple way to enhance our lives and well being. But it’s such a simple hack that its easy to forget, so stick a post it to your mirror or set a daily reminder to cultivate gratitude.
Every moment of our lives gives us an opportunity for gratitude practice. And remember, we can improve our mental health just by feeling a little more gratitude for the millions of things in our lives we’re blessed with. So next time you bite into an apple, savor that flavor and feel gratitude to Mother Nature for her abundance.
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru
Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer.
Header image by Gabrielle Henderson