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  • Writer's pictureDuc Nguyen Huu

Gratitude, why bother?

“Gratitude has been defined as an emotion or state resulting from an awareness and appreciation of that which is valuable and meaningful to oneself” (Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham,2010 p.574)

What does gratitude mean to me?

I can say that gratitude has truly shaped my life for the better, and I owe at least to pass on what I have learned to whoever is reading this blog. I am a 39-year-old male who has lived a beautiful life and continues to do so daily. While my start in life may have been rocky, it was here where gratitude began to shape my life for the better. Growing up as a child, my view of this experience versus my siblings and peers was quite conflicting. While we grow up with similar circumstances, with similar environmental factors influencing us, our outlook could be seen as very different, creating satisfaction in my life while sadness in theirs. I was grateful for what was given to me while those close to me would focus on what they did not possess. I began to see that gratitude was supporting me.


In adulthood I developed a thirst to see the world; I spent several years in traveling countries such as Uganda, Pakistan, and Cambodia. During my travels, I have seen similar attributes between some of the “wealthy” versus the “poor.” Many of the families that I connected with, who may have been seen to be less financially blessed, were more grateful for the lives they had than their counterparts who may have been more financially well off. Those who seemed to have less material wealth were richer in happiness; they held stronger family values and appeared to be richer in smiles. I couldn’t escape seeing gratitude supporting those who needed it most.



kid smile


Gratitude has even guided my career choice. I am so grateful for the life that I live. I feel I owe it to support people to live the best versions of their lives, which further instills my gratitude that I am lucky enough to be in a position to do so. I have a degree in social care, a degree in occupational therapy, and a Master's in positive psychology and coaching. I have over 12 years’ of experience working with young people and families who have often gone through adverse childhood experiences or are experiencing difficulty in their own lives through, relationships breakdown, communication difficulties due to Covid lockdown, or other factors of today's modern society. Here, I apply the unique set of skills I have gained through studying health and wellbeing for over nine years. One tool I have applied time and time again has been gratitude, with clients utilizing this very tool of gratitude, showing them how a view of one situation can leave you feeling very different emotions around it. While not using their traumatic experience as something to be grateful for, but looking at the positive characteristics that have flourished due to such an event. I aim to strengthen the resilience in all my clients that they have developed and to engage the strong character traits that they now possess. It’s this shift in a viewpoint of gratitude for the unique human being they have become that many of my clients whom I work with have applied with success. They have often turned to writing, creating music, or art to express themselves.

As I watch gratitude benefit those I care for as in my own personal life, I wanted to explore the research about it to understand this further. Over the past couple of years, an immense body of evidence has suggested that gratitude has been linked to several aspects of one’s well-being. As a result, many psychological interventions have been trailed and put in place to support this, highlighting positive results, with recent studies showing that gratitude lists have seen some similar effects as those commonly used in clinical therapy techniques (Wood, Froh & Geraghty, 2010). O'Connell, O'Shea & Gallagher (2017) conducted an Irish study with 192 participants assessing gratitude journals. Their finding concluded significant changes in the qualities of well-being and reduction in depression. The most significant improvements were seen when participants expressed gratitude that they had written to their loved ones.



For those who chose to have taken this one step further by creating a gratitude letter. Writing a letter to someone they feel incredibly grateful for and either delivering that letter to the person, by post or sitting down face to face with that person and reading it to them. Evidence shows that this does not only increase the happiness of the person who delivers the letter but also to the person who receives it (Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010). Toepfer, Cichy, & Peters (2012) assessed 219 participants who wrote 3 letters of gratitude over a 3-week period. They found that those who wrote letters of appreciation showed decreased signs of depression and increased life satisfaction and happiness.


plant

My partner has always taken an interest in my outlook at work and life in relation to gratitude and stated that she wanted to develop this as one of her strengths. (Guys, please follow this link to identify your top 5 strengths https://www.viacharacter.org/). Using evidence, I gathered from the research, I set my partner a 30-day challenge to see if she could develop gratitude by practicing it as a character strength. This consisted of creating a journal to write five things each night that she was grateful for. On day 30, I asked her to write a letter to someone to whom she is hugely grateful for and to sit across from them and read it to them. She reported feeling a real difference in her general perspective and stated that her work and home relationships improved significantly. She also increased her gratitude as a strength in the via assessment.


So what now?

It’s up to you now to put it into practice. Whether you take the time to reflect on what you are grateful for. You could tell a loved one how grateful you are to them for being in your life, or you set yourself a 30-day challenge to each night, reflect and write five things you are grateful for in a journal. On the final day, you could write that letter to that one person who had a positive impact in your life, and you want them to hear it from you. Take that power to create more positive emotions in your life and pass it on to the ones you care for the most. Life is short but beautiful. We should show gratitude for having the opportunity to live it, let the people around us know, as remind ourselves to be thankful. In the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast (2013), a monk and interfaith scholar, “it is not happiness that makes you grateful, more so gratitude that makes you happy”.



Bibliography

Geraghty, A. W. A., Wood, A. M., & Hyland, M. E. (2010). Attrition from self-directed interventions: Investigating the relationship between psychological predictors, intervention content and dropout from a body dissatisfaction intervention. Social Science & Medicine, 71(1), 30-37. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.03.007

Karns, C. M., Moore ,William E.,& Mayr, U. (2017). The cultivation of pure altruism via gratitude: A functional MRI study of change with gratitude practice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00599

Khanna, P., & Singh, K. (2019). Do all positive psychology exercises work for everyone? replication of seligman et al.’s (2005) interventions among adolescents. Psychological Studies, 64(1), 1-10. doi:10.1007/s12646-019- 00477-3

Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude: Expressing gratitude to a partner changes one's view of the relationship. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574-580. doi:10.1177/0956797610364003

Mărgăriţoiu, A., & Eftimie, S. (2015). The lack of gratitude's practice in a hyper individualist, hyper consumer, and hyper technologized society. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 203, 316-321. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.08.301

Mary, E. M., & Patra, S. (2015). Relationship between forgiveness, gratitude and resilience among the adolescents. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(1), 63-68. Retrieved from https://search- proquestcom.ucc.idm.oclc.org/docview/1673345148?accountid=14504

O'Connell, B. H., O'Shea, D., & Gallagher, S. (2017). Feeling thanks and saying thanks: A randomized controlled trial examining if and how socially oriented gratitude journals work: Feeling thanks and saying thanks. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(10), 1280-1300. doi:10.1002/jclp.22469

Steindl-Rast, D. (2013), Want to be happy be grateful. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful ?language=en

Toepfer, S. M., Cichy, K., & Peters, P. (2012). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(1), 187-201. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9257-7

Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890- 905. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.00

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