The definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Being thankful involves two parts, a readiness to show appreciation for kindness and then to return that kindness. Being grateful can make you a kinder person. When you recognize kindness shown to you, you develop the feeling of wanting to return and share kindness. How do you practice gratitude and build that feeling into kindness? Science has the answers for you.
How to Be Grateful
Scientists at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence identify three steps to becoming more grateful.
• Pay Attention to Good Things
• Keep a Gratitude Journal
• Connect with Others
Gratitude starts by noticing things to be grateful for in your life. Grateful moments happen all the time if you are looking for them. Did someone let you out into traffic and you made it to work on time? Noticing their act of kindness and being thankful for it is gratitude. Instead of hoping things go your way and being upset when they don’t, gratitude involves being thankful for the many times they do.
Keeping a gratitude journal helps you focus on the reasons in your life to be thankful. Reflecting on the kindness your see helps build your awareness of how many occasions there are to be grateful. When you’re upset or things aren’t going well, reviewing your gratitude journal enables you to focus on positive experiences instead of negative outcomes.
As you become more aware of the kindness surrounding you, you will begin to see the connection gratitude and kindness have with other people. Much of what we are grateful for comes from how we are treated by others. Sharing that connection boosts your desire to be kind.
Building Gratitude into Kindness
Gratitude builds connections with other people, opening the door for better relationships and more opportunities to be kind. The more you connect with others, the easier it is to find situations and ways to show kindness. Have you ever seen a social media challenge to be kind to five people a day? If you don’t make connections with others, your opportunities to show kindness are limited. The more comfortable you are with people, the more open you will be to showing kindness.
Research suggests that gratitude decreases aggression and increases empathy. Gratitude helps you control your initial reaction to people and situations, so you see the possibilities for kindness instead of hurt or anger. When you consider other’s circumstances before passing judgment and are grateful for the opportunity to help them, you can show kindness more often.
Gratitude also builds self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you are in a better position to feel good about and do good for others. People who don’t trust or like themselves find it hard to extend trust and kindness in their relationships. It’s hard to show sympathy to a friend or even smile at a stranger if you’re worried and upset with yourself and the world around you.
Shared experiences are at the core of kindness. Understanding what someone else is going through and being able to see yourself in their situation give you empathy, or insight into how someone wants to be treated. Knowing how kindness makes you feel then makes you want to show that kindness to others. Gratitude helps you lift others through kindness instead of putting them down or ignoring their plight.
Practicing Gratitude and Kindness Together
Like any skill, gratitude and kindness require practice. Since gratitude and kindness are linked, they need to be practiced together. According to Harvard Health, these activities help you practice gratitude and kindness in your life:
• Be Thankful Mentally
• Be Thankful Actively
• Count Your Blessings
When someone shows you kindness, even if you can’t immediately thank them, be grateful and thank them in your mind. This builds a mindset of gratitude and prepares you to be kind when the opportunity is available. When there is an opportunity to be kind, take it. Kind words and thoughtful actions show your kindness to others. Use your days to count your blessings. Looking for the good in your life helps you notice that there is much to be grateful for and many ways to be kind to others in return.
Many people find that prayer or meditation helps them focus on gratitude and being kind. Taking the time to reflect and preparing yourself to be grateful helps boost your kindness in countless ways.
To work with me privately book at 2ofheartshavertown.com