We are confronted with all kinds of emotions every day. These can be experienced both negatively (angry, scared, sadness) and positively (pleasure, love, serenity). In this blog we zoom in on how we can strengthen one of those positive emotions: gratitude!
Gratitude can be seen as noticing and appreciating the positive in the world. There are several explanations for which gratitude can contribute to experiencing positive emotions and emotional well-being:
- You are reliving of positive experiences.
- It helps people to interpret difficult experiences in a positive way (for example, looking back on a setback by being grateful for the support of others and your own strength, instead of continuing to worry about why this should happen to you).
- Gratitude promotes pro-social behavior (for example, giving or doing something for someone else). It is known that pro-social behavior promotes well-being and positive emotions.
Strengthen your gratitude
How do you promote gratitude? We have some exercises that can strengthen your gratitude.
There are many things in our lives that we can be grateful for. To promote gratitude, it is useful to consider what you are grateful for. This can be done in two ways: you can reflect by thinking about it or you can write it down.
- Write it down. Take a look back at the past week and write down five things that you are grateful for. Keep this up for four weeks! After those four weeks, give yourself a moment to reflect on everything you’ve written down, take the time to see what you’ve been grateful for in recent weeks.
- Not a fan of writing? Then consider the following questions:
- What have I done today about which I am satisfied despite what is happening / has happened?
- What did someone else do that I am happy with? Did I respond so that the person would do something like that again?
- What do I see, hear, feel, smell, taste for which I am grateful?
Express your gratitude
Choose a person for whom you feel gratitude for. Think of a way that suits you to thank this person for that. Maybe you say it in person, send flowers, write a letter, or maybe you do it in another way. Expressing gratitude can evoke positive emotions for yourself as well as for others.
In this way you are aware of all the positive things in your life. You think about it and your awareness increases meaning your gratitude will also increase.
Some important comments
- Gratitude exercises can contribute to strengthening positive emotions. Do choose a limited period for the exercise. If you do the exercises for too long, it may lose its effect, or may have the opposite effect for some people because it is used to suppress negative emotions. For example, choose to do it daily for a few weeks or a few times a week for a month.
- When you feel very depressed, gratitude exercises are not the indicated method to experience more positive emotions. Timing is very important here. For people with a (clinical) depression, these exercises can be too confronting or harmful. If this is the case, choose another variant:
- Write down 3 good things down on a daily basis: three things that you did well or that you experienced as pleasant (or the least bad) that day. These may be small things, for example a bird that you heard whistling, the fact that you got out of bed, or just stood under the shower which felt nice for a moment.
When you often feel grateful, it becomes a “second nature” at some point. Then you become a grateful person.