Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation for, and to return, kindness.
Hopefully most people can relate to how good those feelings can be, when we spontaneously realise just how much we have already or what we now have due to the kindness of someone, whether they are a friend or a complete stranger.
In this series of blogs, therapist and mindfulness teacher Tony O’Shea-Poon talks about the physiology of gratitude (what happens in our brains and bodies when we feel gratitude), the benefits of gratitude and how we might express gratitude so that it starts to become our normal state.
Some of the physiology of practicing gratitude speaks for itself. For example, feeling more positive, feeling closer to others, feeling more relaxed and better able to deal with physical and emotional pain.
A range of other studies show that gratitude can work on many other levels. For example, regulating hormones to improve sleep and digestion, strengthening the immune system to protect us from illness and motivating us to take exercise or to get on with our work.
And it doesn’t stop giving there. In fact, practicing gratitude has benefits on 3 levels according to Stephanie Domet, writing on mindful.org:
- Gratitude is good for you – for all the reasons outlined above.
- Gratitude is good for your relationships – research shows that it can support the development of positive relationships at work and positive personal relationships, including romantic relationships.
- Gratitude is good for humanity – as people experience gratitude, they quickly become naturally disposed to act kindly towards those that have given to them. And also to others, including complete strangers. At a mindfulness drop-in, one participant told them about crossing a toll bridge and paying for the person behind her on a regular basis, no matter who they were. You can imagine how you would have felt if you were the person behind and how it would make you think about extending that kindness to others in a chain of ‘pay it forward’ generosity.
Gratitude Challenge #3
Think of a time you felt immense gratitude. How did it affect the rest of your day, week or even month?