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Gratitude: The good stuff

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Gratitude is a valuable tool for building Mental Fitness both when times are good and when times are tough.

For many people, gratitude seems too 'easy' or 'corny' to be a valuable wellbeing tool. However, it is a wonderful antidote to pessimism and complaint.


Gratitude is a scientifically backed practice associated with higher levels of resilience, life satisfaction, and better physical health outcomes.

It is about noticing and reflecting on what is good in our lives. It helps us overcome our inner 'negativity bias,' our tendency to scan the world for threats. When we practice gratitude, we rewire our brain to scan the world for positivity and good things instead.

In response to gratitude, our brains release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which acts as a catalyst for an upward spiral of positive emotions. Research shows that people who value and exhibit gratitude are more loving, forgiving and engaged in life than those who don't. They are more helpful, likeable and pleasant to be around.

Importantly, practicing gratitude doesn't mean that everything in our life needs to be going well. It is common for people to say: "how can I be grateful?" when facing a major setback or adversity.

That's why we need to be specific and creative with how we notice and express gratitude.


While many people describe themselves as grateful, practicing gratitude is about actions, not traits. The reality is that most of us have no thought-out plan to make it a consistent feature of our lives.

One novel way to practice gratitude is to recognise and express gratitude for the actions and contributions of others.

This doesn't mean that we flatter with false praise, but instead show that we genuinely appreciate the specific things other people have done that have positively impacted us or something we care about.

The effect of showering gratitude on others can be magical. Recognition can be a rare light of positive emotion in the dark day of someone who may be struggling. The science also shows that recognition is a far more sustainable motivator than criticism.

Recognition deepens relationships because expressing gratitude publicly requires a degree of vulnerability and courage. This fosters intimacy and trust, which can have ongoing reciprocal effects.

While we can express our thanks and gratitude to others directly to their faces, we can also talk people up in meetings, during presentations, or even behind their backs to friends!

Making it a part of our identity to build others up can create a greater sense of meaning and purpose in our lives as well.


Remembering to show gratitude when we are stressed or busy can be crucial to preventing a tough moment from becoming an otherwise forgettable day.

It takes effort to share gratitude with others. It can be awkward. But the positive feelings it can create can start to counteract emerging spirals of negativity.

First, think of gratitude as a skill that can be learned and developed like any other. We don't become grateful overnight just by choosing to be. Instead, we need to incorporate habits of gratitude into the way we live our lives and interact with others.

Second, consider finding moments throughout the day where you can show people recognition.

Beyond members of your team or family, go out of your way to recognize the efforts of cleaners, reception staff or service workers. Simply noticing and expressing your thanks can brighten someone's day, and also give yourself a meaningful boost of positive energy and purpose.

Third, consider the humble gratitude journal where you write about specific blessings or surprising encounters from the day just gone. Rather than repeating the same old things such as family and health, make an effort to notice new and different things each day. For example, your barista making eye contact while wishing you a good day, or a colleague holding the door open while you had your hands full.


Reflect: Reflect on the idea that gratitude isn't a luxury to be savoured only during good times. When things get tough, double down on your search for moments of goodness throughout the day.

Plan: Consider the power of the written word for showing gratitude. In the days ahead, plan a time-block into your diary where you can sit down and write a letter, email, or heartfelt text-message to one or more people whom you would like to thank for something specific, or just for being a part of your life.

Act: When you find yourself unable to sleep at night, make a mental list of some of the specific things that you are thankful for. Because it's impossible to be grateful and anxious at the same time, you'll often find yourself calming down and quickly drifting off to sleep.