Attitude of Gratitude

‘Thank you’ is among the first phrases we teach our children.

By Samineh I. Shaheem (Out of Mind)

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Published: Sat 27 Jul 2013, 9:08 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:44 PM

We know it’s a sign of manners but we seldom explain or even consider the powerful psychological impact of gratitude. The pleasure gained from being appreciated and receiving appreciation is amazing. In it’s absence, we feel the pinch of disregard and may be aggrieved if our efforts aren’t recognised. Research suggests that managers who thank employees often find that their motivation levels increase and they work more efficiently. Similarly, teachers often state that the most rewarding thing about their profession is the ‘thank you’ notes they receive from students at the end of the year, expressing gratitude for imparting wisdom.

There’s no doubt that being valued feels great, but what about giving gratitude?

How many of us actually sit down regularly to recall the things, people and experiences for which we are most thankful? Even if you do think about it, how often do you express that gratitude to the source? Unfortunately most people would say rarely or never. Is that why we have a plethora occasions throughout the year, sending us to buy last minute cards and flowers to engage in a society driven expression of gratefulness? Perhaps we need these markers because as William A. Ward said, ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’

A recent Harvard University study describes the benefits of appreciation to our psychological and physiological beings. Some of which include:

> Feeling positive emotions

> Recalling and cherishing good experiences

> Being able to deal better with adversity

> Helping build and maintain strong relationships

> Reduces stress

> Boosts the immune system

> Lowers blood pressure

> Less aches and pains

> Optimistic and happy

> Alertness and awareness of surroundings

Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, says that ‘none of us can exist in isolation. Our lives and existence are supported by others in seen and unseen ways be it by parents, mentors or society at large. To be aware of these connections, to feel appreciation for them, and to strive to give something back to society in a spirit of gratitude is a proper way for human beings to live.’

Contrary to popular belief, money and material possessions are not the only source of happiness. In fact, studies have found that the most fulfilled people are neither the poorest nor the richest but those who have risen from poverty. Now you may be wondering what happiness or economic status has to do with gratitude. The ones who overcame poverty were the ones who had the most to be grateful for. So, in fact, happiness and gratitude are inexplicably intertwined.

It’s never too late to start acknowledging life’s many gifts so here are some helpful tips to get you started:

> Keep a gratitude journal. If you set aside a time of day to write down everything you’re grateful for, not only will this habit stick but it will also allow you to look over past entries of gratitude so you can feel the same appreciation all over again.

> Remind yourself. This doesn’t just happen; it requires conscious effort and care.

> Keep the company of those who express gratitude.

> Write personal notes to those who matter.

> Compliment people more regularly.

> Combat negative thoughts regarding what you don’t have with at least three positive thoughts of all that you do have.

I’ve recently started an inspiring program here in Dubai called ‘Life Clubs’ where we meet once a week to reflect on a set topic in a structured and self-directed manner. Every week, we start by asking, ‘what’s the best thing that happened to you today?’ It’s amazing how the answer to this simple question immediately elevates moods and the emotional climate of the session. Appreciation enables us to escape the narrow world we sometimes inhabit, to remove our blinders, and to feel more connected to the vastness of the world. For all the countless blessings that we have been showered with and the abundance of life – go on, take a minute and say ‘thank you’.

Samineh I. Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, consultant at HRI, Learning & Development advisor and owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co hosts a radio program (Psyched Sundays, Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community.

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