Why Gratitude and what does it mean to be Grateful?

Gratitude is a frequently used word, especially in the context of religiosity or spirituality. Academic research has been increasingly validating its contribution to the human physical and psychological wellbeing (e.g., Dickens, 2017; Emmons & McCullough, 2004). Gratitude is not just being thankful for the good things we have, but importantly, it is an attitude of openness, which can be created when we allow a broader perspective on the objective reality – the recognition of both desirable and undesirable circumstances and sincere appreciation of the opportunity to exist, learn and experience our own aliveness (Germer & Neff, 2019). It is the basis and essence of wisdom (Olendzki, 2012).

It is hard to conjure a grateful approach when life presents a multitude of challenges or hardships. It is not possible to deny the unpleasantness when it happens; those perceptions and thoughts have the power to consume our mind. This negative focus, however, narrows our vision, urges us to complain and catastrophise, and obscures the potential for satisfaction and constructive action. Allowing ourselves to go beyond the negative and acknowledging the full extent of our existence opens up the gate to our appreciation of all that is, and improved clarity of the mind. This practice often awakens a sense of humility, joy, meaning, purpose and hope – the important factors in the shaping of a solid sense of self. Further, it promotes the connectedness and improves our relationships with others.

For more information see Robert Emmons (Professor of Psychology, UC Davis) who explains how gratitude contributes to wellbeing, as based on the recent empirical psychological research (Gratitude Works!: The Science and Practice of Saying Thanks [Robert Emmons] – YouTube).

Wishing all the readers a wonderful, exciting and fulfilling life journey!

Pro Psychology SA Dr Margaret Prysak, Psychologist

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