Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (May 19, 2016)
If there was one character trait that I think goes at the top of the list for everyone to grow in, myself included, it would be ‘gratitude’. As we go through the busyness of life, face the many challenges and hurdles we have to, deal with difficult people and situations, one of the first things that we can forget to have is gratitude. It’s easy to look at every situation and see the ‘glass half empty’ and to complain rather than to see the glass half full.
Research has shown the many benefits of gratitude and these are just a few:
Grateful people have 10% fewer stress related illnesses and are more physically fit
Grateful people have blood pressure that is lower by 12%
Grateful teenagers are less likely to start smoking
Grateful youths are more likely to get higher grades
Grateful people have better relationships with others and are more well liked
Happy people roughly have 7% higher income
Overall happiness can add up to 7 years to your life
(data from templeton.org)
And I think most people would agree that gratitude is important but the challenge isn’t knowing that fact, it’s putting it into practice.
There’s a saying that goes ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and being grateful means seeing the silver lining in every situation. It’s really about perspective and choosing to see the good over seeing the bad. So when it’s pouring outside and you are out without an umbrella, it’s choosing to be grateful that you have proper shoes on and not complaining that you don’t have an umbrella. When your best friend moves to a different country, it’s choosing to be thankful for the friendship and the means to communicate with modern technology and not seeing it as losing a friend. Or when your toddler is throwing a fit and screaming and crying, it’s choosing to be grateful that you have an opportunity to shape and teach a life, rather than complaining that your child is naughty and a burden. It’s all about perspective.
And the great thing about gratitude, as with any other character trait, is that is can grow. Just like a muscle, gratitude can grow as you exercise it and use it more. So studies have found that these methods to be effective in helping us grow in gratitude and they are suitable for adults and children alike:
1) Every morning, think of 3 things/people you are grateful for
It doesn’t have to be big things – it could just be taking the time to be thankful for having air to breathe and a home to wake up in. Starting the day with gratitude, sets us up for a better day.
2) Keep a gratitude journal
People say that it takes 8 weeks to make or break a habit and keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to give thanks daily and to grow the habit of being grateful. Take time at the end of each day to write down a couple things that you are grateful for.
3) Express the gratitude
Studies have shown that if we have gratitude, our happiness levels rise by a couple percent. But if we also express that gratitude, happiness levels can go up double fold. So make the effort to express the gratitude. Whether it’s to God through prayer, writing a thank you note to a friend, or just simply saying “thank you” to someone who has helped you, it will make you and the other person happier – and hopefully start a chain of gratitude.
4) Find the silver lining
Practice finding the silver lining to every situation. I have a student who once shared with me that she has a ‘silver linings book’ and in it, she will write down all the things that she is upset about. After that, she will think about the silver lining in each situation and write that down too. Soon, she realized that she could more easily see the good in every situation, causing her to be more grateful.
"Count your blessings and you will have an attitude of gratitude." ~Sir John Templeton
我想大部分人都會同意，感恩是幸福人生的必要條件，問題在於如何付諸行動。英文有句諺語：「Every cloud has a silver lining」，形容凡事都有一線曙光。其實我們只要轉換角度，不再著眼於不如意的事情上，便可重新發掘生命中被遺忘的恩賜，這就是感恩的真諦。當下雨天沒帶傘，與其抱怨滿地雨水泥濘，應該慶幸鞋子沒有濕透。當摯友移居外國，難免傷心難過從此二人分隔兩地，但值得感恩的是現代通訊工具發達，隨時隨地可以聯繫友誼。當孩子大哭大鬧地耍賴，心生煩躁之餘，幸運的是自己仍有機會塑造子女成長。正所謂「境隨心轉」，抱持正面態度便能看到不一樣的風景。
有人說需要八個星期來建立或摒棄一個習慣，而撰寫日記有助養成感恩的好習慣。一天結束前，不妨花 . 點時間寫下身邊值得言謝的事情。