The holy month of Ramadan is a time for reflection and sacrifice, and is also an opportunity for us to begin actively practising gratitude. Research has shown that in the long term, the act of expressing thanks and focusing on the positive things around us could help improve our overall quality of life and our mental health.
Gratitude also allows individuals to feel connected to something other than themselves – whether it is towards other people, nature in general, or even a higher power.
People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to:
The past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for their childhood or for past blessings),
The present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and
The future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).
But, after a year that was marked by stress, fear and uncertainty, is it even possible for us to feel grateful for anything?
While the answers might be different for everyone, there is no doubt that learning to practise gratitude every day can help bring some stability to our lives by helping us focus on what is good, rather than what is uncertain or unpredictable.
Instead of focusing on all the negativity of this pandemic, perhaps we should take time to be grateful for what we have gained, and for the lessons we have learned during the challenges of the past year.
How to express gratitude
The act of expressing gratitude is actually rather simple, and it just takes a few small actions to get yourself started. And the more that you bring attention to what you can feel grateful for, the calmer and happier you will feel.
-> Keep a gratitude journal. Take five minutes each day, or once a week, to think of and write down three things that have happened to you since the previous day or week that you’re glad to have experienced.
-> Take pictures. Set yourself a mission to photograph little things in your everyday life that make you smile. You can keep them in a folder on your phone, or if you are more crafty, print them out to create a mini ‘gratitude album’.
-> Thank the people in your life. Whether it’s someone you look up to, or someone who just makes you happy, take the time to let them know how much you’re glad to have them around. It may bring them joy to know how much you appreciate them.
-> Use key words. Grateful people tend to use words with positive connotations, such as “gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance”. In gratitude, you should not focus on yourself, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
-> Act out your gratitude. Go through ‘grateful motions’, including saying “thank you”, writing letters of gratitude or even giving gifts. These actions can help trigger the emotion of gratitude and put you in a positive, giving mindset.
You don’t have to think up a whole bunch of really significant things in order to be grateful. You can be grateful for the smallest things, such as the sunshine, your morning coffee, or the fact that you made it to work on time.
In fact, practising gratitude on a regular basis can help you become more optimistic. It can also impact your attitude and overall outlook on life.
There is no doubt that living through a pandemic is challenging. But try to stay positive and look at the bright side of things during this difficult situation, and remind yourself that life will return to normal – even if it is a new kind of normal.