a sceptic’s guide to gratitude

gratitude without the hype

Does being grateful make a difference? Melissa Cowan reflects on the art of saying thanks.

I had mixed feelings when I received a gratitude journal for Christmas last year (the irony of this has not escaped me). It was super pretty, but with over 76 million ‘gratitude’ hits on Google and eight million Instagram #gratefuls, the hype had kind of turned me off the whole thing. But then again, maybe there was something behind it all. Just how good is gratitude?

With just a little trepidation, I started writing down three things I was grateful for each day. Some days, they were really small things, like the smell of jasmine on my walk. On other days, I reflected on bigger things like how thankful I was for my supportive family. It only took about 30 seconds and I just wrote whatever came to me.

I started to notice a slight shift in my thinking. Instead of just noticing things that didn’t go well or situations I wanted to change, I was making mental notes of the good things that happened each day. I was surprised by just how many there were.

One thing I found was that the majority of ‘things’ I was thankful for weren’t things at all…they were people. And the act of noticing them and all their awesome qualities was inspiring. My next step is to go out of my way to tell people how awesome they are (why is this hard to do!?).

Some of the claimed benefits of practicing gratitude include a greater sense of wellbeing, less loneliness, more generosity and a stronger immune system. I’m not too sure about some of them, but I can say that it does make you feel pretty good. And I’ve realised it makes other people feel good, too. The best part was that it took hardly any time out of my day, so the benefits outweighed the effort. By this stage, I was on board.

Here are some practical ways to cultivate gratitude:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal
  2. Use a gratitude app
  3. Write your ‘happy moments’ on a scrap of paper and put them into a Happiness Jar
  4. Use a normal journal and just write down anything good that happened that day.

I’m actually loving the practice and I think I’ll keep it up for a while. I may even take photos of the things I am thankful for #grateful

In our simplicity series, we’re all about making life easier and better. Melissa Cowan explores the act of simplifying.