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The Importance of Gratitude

‘Thank you.’ Two words that can make a world of difference for both the giver and the receiver. When we take the time to feel grateful, to appreciate things and express that feeling of appreciation in some way, life seems better. We resonate with the world instead of fighting with it. We notice beauty. The world seems different, better. It’s hard to be down when you are feeling grateful.

Gratefulness is a state of thankfulness and appreciation. Appreciating something involves taking the time to notice it and then acknowledging its value and meaning, as well as feeling a positive emotional connection to it. Paradoxically, in our consumer society with its wealth and material comforts, the expression of genuine gratitude can be quite hard for many of us, partly because we have grown accustomed to on-demand instant gratification, or the quick fix.

There are many benefits to holding a gratitude and appreciative attitude towards life, and they show up in the most unexpected places. One study found that the effect of gratitude on sleep is even stronger than those of personality traits such as neuroticism. Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and also predicted less dysfunctional daytime sleeping.

One way to feel more grateful is to write a letter of gratitude to people to whom you are particularly grateful. Expressing gratitude by writing a gratitude letter to these people is a proven way to make you feel happier. Well-known positive psychologists Martin Seligman, Tracey Steen, Nansook Park and Chris Peterson found that people who wrote a gratitude letter to someone they had never properly thanked were happier and less depressed a month later than those who had simply written about an early memory, and the benefits lasted for up to three months. Chris Peterson recommends that you read the letter aloud to the person you are thanking and that, if you do this, you will see a measurable improvement in your mood and wellbeing. In fact it has been said that the gratitude visit is one of the most powerful exercises in Positive Psychology.

Some tips for your gratitude letter and visit:

1)      Some people find it helpful to keep the letter for a period (i.e a week) and read it everyday for that time.

2)      You might find it helpful to write about the following things-

-         Why you are writing this letter?

-         What you are grateful for? Be as specific as possible.

-         Describe the things you are grateful for in concrete terms.

-         Describe how their behaviour affected you. How you benefited? What you learned?

3)      Allow yourself to be in touch with the feeling of gratitude as you write.

4)      Read and re-read the letter to ensure that it captures your thoughts and feelings.

5)      Set a time and day to go on your ‘Gratitude Visit’.

6)      Make the visit. For many people this is the hardest part, but it is also the most beneficial.


For more information see ‘Eight Steps to Happiness: The Science of Getting Happy and How It Can Work for You’ by Dr. Anthony M. Grant & Alison Leigh.

Adapted from the book ‘Eight Steps to Happiness: the science of getting happy and how it can work for you’ by Dt. Anthony M. Grant & Alison Leigh.

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