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Gratitude: The Importance of Being Thankful

The philosopher Eric Hoffer stated, “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”

Gratitude is an inward sense and an outward acknowledgment of a gift or benefit received. Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you and represents a general state of thankfulness, gratefulness or appreciation.

Gratitude encompasses abundance, and the simple, and often deep, appreciation of others and the world. It is optimism, life satisfaction, hope, spirituality/religion, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and pro-social behavior.

Gratitude is also a readiness to return or express the gift or feeling of appreciation. As William Arthur Ward noted, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Gratitude has one of the strongest links with mental well-being of any character trait. Research has measured improvements in mood, specifically depression, when practicing gratitude. Such benefits include better physiological health (e.g., heart rhythms and sleep patterns), fewer physical symptoms (e.g., headaches/colds), increased cognitive functioning, higher states of alertness, determination and energy, and an increased sense of connectedness to others.

Expressions of gratitude by one person tend to motivate others to express gratitude; it can be contagious. Thus, showing gratitude initiates a virtuous cycle, enhancing positive reciprocal behavior. Dr. Emmons of the University of California Davis found, “Expressing thanks makes our gratitude stronger.”

Gratitude can be introduced into your day by saying “Thank you,” telling people what you appreciate about them, identifying in the moment what you are appreciating (e.g., the sky, a smell, a touch, a pen), accepting compliments and gifts from others, working from an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity, and regularly using gratitude reflection (e.g., journal, verbally expressing.)

Rejoice in or appreciate even the small things. This could be as simple as finding a single paper clip (“Yes!”), a piece of onion for your meal, or that timely phone call, that although not necessarily vital, it surely adds to the flow of your day.

As with any trait, gratitude’s opposing trait appears as envy, depression, anxiety, materialism and fear.  If gratitude is fearless, then envy is full of fear and seeped in the scarcity principle of not enough. It shows up as, “I don’t have enough,” “What about the future?” and “Life is overwhelming/too large for me.”

Sometimes you do not see all that you can be grateful for in your life. Look around and imagine your life without certain people and items, whether in past and current situations. A great practice is to list five different circumstances you are grateful each day. Begin with, “I am grateful for …” The rest is up to you.

Sometimes [Hoffer]  ….  1 + 1 sometimes does =  3

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.