Recently I watched a TED talk about happiness and gratitude by the monk David Steindl-Rast. Over the years I have picked up from numerous places about the benefits of having gratitude, but the talk brought it home to me. I am terrible at being grateful, and that can’t be helpful in my quest to fill up my glass. So I have looked at ways of helping me to become more grateful, to gain more of those benefits.
What is gratitude?
To recap (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a rough idea but could do with a refresh!); the ability to be thankful and appreciative of things and people around us. There is a notion of gratitude having an element of social exchange, it creates some obligations between parties, for example saying thank you after receiving help or assistance means we are more likely to receive it again in the future, although I intuitively think this is just too simplistic an approach. The polar opposite is taking things for granted.
Why is gratitude important?
There has been growing evidence of the benefits of gratitude over the past 15 years as the field of positive psychology developed. Evidence has shown both physical benefits as well as psychological advantages. These are some of the things that I found out about, having a little browse around the old interweb, as universally accepted:
• Increased happiness
• Improved life satisfaction
• Reduced anxiety and depression
• Increased compassion
• Lower blood pressure
• Improved immune system
Who wouldn’t want to have all those things for themselves…?
How can I develop my gratitude?
Like any other skill gratitude is something that needs to be practiced. Back when I was getting serious about honing my routines, I put down on my list for bedtime to express 3 gratitudes for that day. But I haven’t been very good at doing it at night-time because by that point in the day I feel tired and I find recall of the day’s events tricky.
So I have needed to find another way to be better able to express my gratefulness for my life, and the people and events that exist in it. I wanted to undertake a more instantaneous way of voicing when I felt grateful because I thought this might help with the memory issue but also to be more aware of these moments as they occur – mindfulness in its truest sense.
I decided foster my daily experiences of gratitude through recording them and journaling them through photographs and captions. This is by no means a unique idea, I don’t claim that for myself, although I came up with it as a solution for myself independently of anyone else using it as a tool, so I am quite sure it is the right approach for me.
To do this I have set up an Instagram account, the_filling_glass, for this purpose, linked to this blog. I aim to document at least once a day, but so far it has been more. Please feel free to follow me or join in with your own gratitude pictures on your feed, but be sure to comment on your photo what you are grateful for.
I will be posting weekly my most favourite gratitude of the week, although I know a lot of the time I will find it difficult to choose, including this week – which is why I am choosing two!