World Gratitude Day
World Gratitude Day is held on September 21st every year. It’s designed to encourage people across the globe to show their thanks and appreciation for the people in their lives and the things they do for them. It’s a day of both reflection and action; people are urged to pause and think about the good things in their lives as well as to physically show their appreciation towards others by voicing their thanks or carrying out acts of kindness. It is a good time to think about what benefits gratitude can bring to us physically and emotionally.
noun the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
According to an issue of a newsletter published by Harvard Health, gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness based on positive psychology research. The newsletter suggests that gratitude helps people to “feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Why is showing gratitude important?
Let’s take a look at the positive benefits of gratitude.
They are two small words, but they can make a big difference. Saying thank you to someone can make them feel valued and appreciated, helping to boost their wellbeing and self-esteem too. In a fast-paced world where people increasingly have less time to stop and be grateful, showing our appreciation towards others has never been more important. That’s why the idea behind World Gratitude Day is worth celebrating.
By showing your appreciation of others, you are not only helping them, but you are helping yourself too. Research suggests that showing gratitude has a number of benefits:
- Being appreciative of others fosters positive relationships, leading to an increased sense of wellbeing.
- Some evidence suggests that writing in a gratitude journal before bedtime can lead to improved sleep quality.
- Taking time out of our busy lives to notice and be grateful for what we already have can lead to feelings of positivity and happiness.
- Showing gratitude can lead to an increased sense of wellbeing, which in turn lowers stress levels and boosts the immune system.
- Gratitude can help to enhance feelings of empathy – an increased sense of awareness and sensitivity towards others.
An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness
What makes you happy? Have you ever wondered why?
Watch this short 7 minute YouTube video which takes an experimental approach to what makes people happier.
What Happens to Our Bodies When We’re Grateful?
Much scientific evidence has shown that gratitude has far-reaching effects on our health.
When people are thankful and are good with things as they are, their physical health reflects that. They’re more likely to exercise, eat better, and take care of their health.
Researchers over the years point to lower stress, reduced pain and improved immune systems as a result of being thankful. Even better blood pressure and positive effects on the heart have been linked to gratitude.
Gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being as well. It increases self-esteem, enhances positive emotions and makes us more optimistic.
When we feel deep happiness, our bodies are producing all sorts of wonderful chemicals. Keller explains how rewarding it is for our body: “Experiencing gratitude activate neurotransmitters like dopamine, which we associate with please and serotonin which regulates our mood. It also causes the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone which induces feelings like trust and generosity which promoted social bonding and feeling connected”.
Activate Gratitude Regularly by Using a Gratitude Journal
The best way to make gratitude a habit is not to wait for special moments:
We recommend keeping a gratitude journal to manage stress and anxiety. Journaling every day is also correlated with an increase in happiness.
Choose a time each day to sit quietly and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Whatever you notice that day is fine. There is only one rule-you cannot repeat anything. If you notice the beautiful colours of a summer flower, or the delicious crunch of your favourite apple today, you can not use them again. Keep looking. How many days/months can you keep this up? If you are using this practice with your family, create a Family Gratitude Journal and leave it on the table. It may become a treasured keepsake over time!
Linda, a person who we support here at East Surrey Community Connections, shares her experience about keeping a gratitude journal:
“In our busy lives, it is easy to let the good things pass us by with little attention whilst the challenging things demand and gain our attention. Since doing the gratitude diary, I find that I can really take notice of the good. This helps me to be aware of the positives in my life as well as the challenges.”
How to Practice Gratitude
Just like a muscle, when you exercise your thankfulness more often, you’re more likely to see beneficial effects.
Learn From the Scandinavians
In 2018 and 2019, Finland ranked No. 1 in The United Nation’s (UN) World Happiness Report. It’s worth pausing to think about why Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland often rank at the top for the happiest people in the world. The UN report is a survey of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by respondent ratings of their own lives.
Therefore, Scandinavians themselves are determining their levels of happiness. It’s obviously pretty high. They are appreciative of a functioning society in which they have economic security and in which social institutions support everyone, not just a few. Yet, there is something else. The Swedes use the word “lagom,” to describe a kind of moderation, a ‘just enough-ness’ they value.
They don’t chase happiness or work overtime for months at a time. By and large, they are accepting and content. They remain grateful for a healthy work-life balance, take breaks during the work day, and have a high standard of living. They also have low corruption and a high level of social trust.
As a result of this satisfaction and contentment, they feel their lives have value.
They have less pressure, less stress, and more time for what they enjoy.
Easy Ways to Practise Gratitude
If you don’t fancy journaling just yet, there are easy ways to begin on your road to being grateful, by just paying attention. Start identifying things you might take for granted. Then, take a moment to be thankful for them.
Be sure to consider positive actions and events that might seem small, common-place or inconsequential. Here are some examples:
- Be thankful for the warm cup of tea you are enjoying.
- Look up and appreciate the roof over your head.
- Notice the small acts of kindness that you forgot to pay attention to.
- Be thankful someone waved your car through in the car park.
- Be appreciative of the friendly customer in line at the supermarket or coffee shop who allowed you to go ahead of them.
- Take a moment to be grateful that your best friend texted you to see how your headache was.
- Stop to be thankful that your hard-working parent texted you to have a nice night.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list as there are many ways to cultivate gratitude. So, get creative and tailor them to your own life!
Dr. Amy E. Keller, PsyD, a marriage and family therapist explains that when you feel joyful, but also feel your life has meaning, you’re more appreciative of what you have. She says,
“When I talk about happiness with clients, I emphasize feeling purposeful and connected and cultivating satisfaction and self-worth, as well as simply feeling pleasure – which of course is also a factor! Gratitude supports happiness in ways related to all of these.”
Practice Gratitude Exercises
Your goal is to practice with intention and add this science-backed habit to increase your happiness.
Do you feel that you’re too busy, especially with work? Keller encourages her clients to practice being thankful even at work.
She works with several “high-octane” business people and she encourages them to do gratitude exercises before big meetings.
Keller says, “It not only reduces their anxiety, but it shifts their attitude toward one of cooperation (think of that oxytocin kicking in) resulting in more positive and productive interactions—which in turn gives them a sense of accomplishment (dopamine!) improving their overall feelings of satisfaction and self-worth.”
During busy work days and even on the weekends, when we are pressed for time, there are doable ways to fit gratitude into your schedule.
While journaling every day about what you’re grateful for has proven to be and remains extremely beneficial, here are other possible activities to help you stay on track:
- Take a walk and be thankful for each item you see: trees, flowers, the sky, birds.
- Get a magazine or old photos and make a collage of everything you’re grateful for.
- Make a Gratitude Jar or Box. Using slips of paper, write three things you’re thankful for daily. Put in the jar or box and take out periodically to read.
- Call someone who did something kind and express your appreciation.
- Write a letter to someone to express how thankful you are for something that person did for you.
- Schedule a visit and tell this person how much their favour or generous act really meant to you.
Creating gratitude mandalas takes the practice of gratitude to another beautiful level:
1. All you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. The mandala in this post was created by Sara Roizen with white paint pens on black paper, giving a wonderful contrast. If you want more colour, use coloured pencils or watercolour paint and a fine brush.
2. You can trace a circle or draw one freehand. If it helps, find the centre of the circle and mark it in a way that serves as a visual centring point.
3. Next, take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing your mind and body. Then, begin to write down anything that you feel gratitude for within the circle. Experiment with the direction of the writing, the size of the words, and the way they flow.
Your gratitude words can be something on a larger scale such as ‘my family’ or something seemingly mundane such as ‘the way dust motes dance in the light.’
Perhaps you can create multiple gratitude mandalas – some that focus on the broader categories, and some that celebrate all of the smaller things you feel grateful for. The Mandala shown was created by Sara with small everyday things in mind and finding beauty in the mundane: piles of books, paint pens, podcasts, and lazy breakfasts.
Ways to Use Gratitude Stones
The gratitude stone is a physical reminder to remember what you are grateful for.
There are many ways to use them.
Calm Down Strong Feelings
Thinking and talking about the good things in our life can calm down angry or sad feelings and build our resiliency.
Hold the stone in your hands and list everything you feel thankful for.
As a Bedtime Ritual
Hold your stone and ask yourself “What was the best part of your day?”
Share a Stone
Create extra stones and share them with the people you feel thankful for!
Include a little note expressing your gratitude.
Spread Joy in Your Community
An attitude of gratitude is contagious! Scatter gratitude stones around your community and neighbourhood to spread joy to others. Finding tiny hearts on stones is sure to bring a smile to other people’s faces!
Make Your Own Gratitude Stones!
1. Cut out a small tissue paper heart with scissors.
2. Place the heart on the surface of a clean stone on a surface with protective cover (old magazine colour supplements are great for this!).
3. Using a paintbrush, lightly spread a thin layer of Mod Podge over the tissue paper and top half of the rock.
Allow this layer to dry undisturbed.
4. Flip the rock over and spread Mod Podge/PVA glue over the bottom half.
Allow this layer to dry undisturbed.
When the rocks are dry, notice how seamless and smooth they feel!
The thin tissue paper conforms to every nook and cranny within the rock so that it almost seems a natural part of it!
good that you already
have in your life is the
So, take some time to be thankful…
It can impact your happiness and enhance many aspects of your life!
Explore the practice of gratitude more:
An inspiring site entirely devoted to cultivating and practicing gratitude.
Greater Good Berkeley – A collection of articles about gratitude
A nice listing of various articles related to gratitude.
Positive Art Therapy: Art Therapist Janet McLeod
The focus is on the integration of Positive Psychology & Art Therapy and there are many posts pertaining to weaving gratefulness into art therapy practice.
Sources: Barbara Field verywellmind How to Make Gratitude Stones (firefliesandmudpies.com)0 Gratitude Mandalas - Art Therapy Spot