Is Gratitude an Attitude?
Posted on 2nd November 2020 at 18:31
We are living in testing times as another lockdown is due to start any day in England. As you scan the media, the overwhelming emotions are anger and frustration. This is understandable but is it useful? We are in a situation that requires a new way of thinking. A different lens to look at this strange reality we face.
When I heard confirmation of the lockdown the other day, I think it was fair to say, I was a little stressed and frustrated by it. I am someone who likes to have stretch goals in my life and I had recently signed up to a fitness challenge that required me going to the gym 4 times a week to lift weights. Like a woman possessed, I start looking for fitness gear on the internet. How on earth would I be able to keep moving forwards with the gyms closed? I know this sounds crazy but at the time I was in a flat panic. This is one case where I am not in control and I need to submit to the devastating reality of the situation. Easier said than done. I like control and giving to away is not easy.
When we get our status quo challenged, we generally don't like it. We can see what's wrong with the situation and create cast iron arguments as to why it shouldn't happen. We like certainty - certainty makes us comfortable - humans want to be comfortable. There hasn't been a situation since the Second World War that has tested us so much as a society. It really is a case of united we stand or divided we fall. I want society to be united, so have decided to choose my attitude.
Choose Your State
As humans, one of the gifts we have at our disposal, is the ability to choose our own attitude. We can decide how we want to respond to the people and the events that unfold around us. When you hear people say "they made me angry!" this isn't strictly true. We are able to CHOOSE how we respond. Nobody is in charge of our emotions but us. I am not saying it is easy, but it is possible. We can choose our emotional state. When you know this, it can be very liberating. If I choose not to get angry and frustrated I can - I have. Instead we can look at the situation and think 'what is possible during this time? What will I do that helps me move forward in another way during this time? What opportunities exist?
The Attitude of Gratitude
For many of us it feels counter-intuitive to be grateful at this time. Some of us are worried about paying the bills, putting food on the table and the likelyhood of a difficult Christmas. However, focusing on what we are thankful for helps us manage our mental state and resilience better than continually thinking about what is wrong, bad or imperfect.
The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
Benefits of Gratitude
Over the years there has been a great deal of research into people who have experienced gratitude and the impacts this has had on them. One particular study took a group of 180 nuns in the USA. All of the nuns had a similar lifestyle, schedule and diet. The
nuns were asked to write essays as they entered their religious order. They were asked to write about themselves and their lives from childhood to the present day, and their hopes and dreams for their lives. The nuns were unaware that their essays were being analysed for a happiness and longetivity study. What the study revealed was that 90% of those nuns who showed gratitude and thanks for the opportunities they had benefitted from lived past 85 years of age. However, only 34% of those nuns who did not describe their lives and opportunities with gratitude and thanks lived past 85. This study implies a link between gratitude, happiness, health and ultimately longevity. At a more basic level, if we are grateful for our lives, it helps to ground us. We get back in touch with those things that are most important, however simple.
One way to focus on what we are grateful for is writing a gratitude journal. This can take a variety of forms but ultimately is a book where you list what you are grateful for. Ideally your gratitude journal will:
1) Be completed daily or very regularly – Making your garitude journal a daily or regular practise helps you focus positively over time. It helps you appreciate what is good, what is working and what you are fortunate for.
2) Be kept simple - what two or three things are you grateful for from the day?
3) Celebrate the small things - what can you celebrate that you might have historically taken for granted? This is important, especially during lockdown.
Over time, and with consistency, keeping a gratitude journal can help you improve your mindset and your ability to tackle the challenges ahead. One of the greatest benefits of focusing on gratitude is the ability to think abundantly, rather than with scarcity. When we are grateful it helps us think about what is possible. When we think this way, we are much more likely to achieve it.
As for me, I am going to think like a happy nun from now on. I am so blessed - I have a family that loves me, I currently have my health and mobility and I can do amazing things, if I set my mind to it. What about you?
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