Much has been preached about the attitude of gratitude. Almost every religion or philosopher (even Bayfucius) advocates it, but what’s the science behind it? How does it make us better, happier and even more resilient?
When we express gratitude, we are Focused On What We Have instead of what we don’t.
Gratitude is somewhat counter-intuitive in a country where we “Everything also complain.” Furthermore, Singaporeans are an ambitious lot, always focusing on achieving what we do not have yet. This may develop to become a sort of blindness that limits our worldview, i.e., we are less likely to notice the good in our lives and even the opportunities that come our way.
Don’t Worry be Happy!
What a chillax song by Bobby McFerrin! Many of you would have hummed and whistled to this song from the 80s. Although Mr McFerrin tells us not to worry and be happy, he does not exactly tell us how to do so.
So how do we worry less and be happier?
Gratitude – Contentment – Happiness
Well, contentment and happiness are inseparable and it is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude. Contentment is contradictory to worry since worries relate to events that are beyond our direct control.
Someone who has learnt how to be grateful is also one who has learnt how to worry less and be happy.
How gratitude primes your mind to cope with challenges and to perform under pressure
“Give yourself the best opportunity for success by focusing on the 60% that you DO have and make 100% use of that 60%…” Ken Ravizza, Sport Psychologist
“How can I leverage on what I have?”,
“Who can help me with this?”,
“What skills can I learn to help me with this?”
Observe the thoughts above. Are they aligned with what we have and what we can control instead of what we lack? Are they solution focused or problem-oriented? When we practice gratitude, we are mentally coaching ourselves to cope with challenges by making full use of what’s in our control.
To all the athletes and coaches that I’ve worked with, does this sound familiar already?
Yup, It relates to the psychological skill of focusing on process goals instead of being overwhelmed by the fear of failure.
You may not be able to directly control winning but your chances of winning are higher when you are able to sustain your confidence and composure by focusing on the Controllables aka Process Goals.
Gratitude and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Ellis placed Irrational Beliefs at the very heart of REBT, as these are the primary reason for human misery and dysfunction. By challenging, questioning, disputing and acting against our Irrational Beliefs we can change our emotional responses to events, from unhealthy to healthy, which better aid us in achieving our goals in life.
I shall not dwell too much into REBT but you could find out more about REBT and the MUSTs or typical Irrational Beliefs (IB) that limit our happiness here.
Basically, It is often easy for us to catastrophize events that are NOT going well, and demand how people ought to behave towards us, rather than turn our attention to all the good in our lives.
Terriblizing and being grateful are incompatible and competing beliefs. Thus, when we make it a habit to write down or remind ourselves of things that we are grateful for, we are more adept at challenging these IBs.
That’s it! I hope I’ve convinced you of the benefits of gratitude and let’s conclude by reflecting on at least 3 things that we are grateful for today, before going back to our favourite pastime of complaining 😉