People, Culture and Inclusion

What is Gratitude?


What is Gratitude?

Put simply, gratitude can be defined as an appreciation for what we receive. Gratitude is simple to practise. And when we practise gratitude, it can bring joy. That can be powerful.   

What’s at the front of your mind at this moment? Well, all of us are definitely experiencing change right now!  

That might mean that you are struggling with social distancing, or feeling anxious because you need a fair amount of support to work from home.  

On the other hand, you may be hearing the birds outside your window, noticing the emergence of a new season, understanding more about what the kids do at school or what is going on in the lives of those you are close to.  

Our thoughts affect our feelings, and our feelings affect our behaviour. So when we take the time to actively think about what we are grateful for, we notice positives we might otherwise overlook. This can lift our feelings and change our mental outlook. It can connect us with our values.  And it can  impact upon our behaviour.  

For example, instead of yelling at the kids because they need our attention, we can remind ourselves that we have been given the rare and unique gift of time with them. Something that, actually, we may feel very grateful for.  

Research has long suggested that actively practising gratitude is both mentally and physically beneficial. See the work of Dr Brené Brown, summarised in this three minute clip:

So what is important to you right now? What are the things that really matter to you? What are you grateful for?  

Take a couple of minutes to jot down three things. Be intentional. Notice how you feel about those things too.  You can keep a journal or a note in your diary, or you can jot your thoughts onto scraps of paper and put them in a jar. You can invite others to do this with you too!  Do it daily.  

Why is this important? Not only will it serve as a memory jogger after this period of time, but the practise of gratitude can help to trigger positive emotions in your mind. This can help you to connect with your inner stillness and presence, help you feel more grounded and focus on what is important to you. It can help to draw your attention away from negativity (our brains are like velcro for the negative, right?). So instead, this can move your attention to feelings of gratitude.   

As Brother David Steindl-Rast quotes, “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, but it’s gratitude that brings us joy.”   

What about me, you might ask? What am I grateful for? Right now, I’m grateful for my health, nature and time with my family …oh, and good wifi! 

What about you?  

Tracey Lamb, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant 

This years Mental Health Awareness Week, which the University will be supporting, has the theme of “Kindness” so we will be looking at this issue again then – if you would like to offer a blog contribution or are involved in anything that week you would like to share please do get in touch with us

Useful links:  

The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)

Giving thanks can make you happier

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