Practising gratitude as a tool for self-care

17 November 2021

The definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Synonyms include gratefulness, thankfulness and appreciation. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Research has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, relish good experiences, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, build stronger relationships, have stronger immune systems and improved health and deal better with adversity. The science behind this is that gratitude enhances dopamine and serotonin release which enhances our mood.

Gratitude does not mean ignoring life’s challenges or pretending that bad things do not happen. It does not mean putting up with injustice or bad behaviour or poor working conditions. Gratitude is not creating a fake happiness or putting on a brave face or pretending that everything is okay when it is not. To be effective, gratitude must be genuine. The practice of gratitude is a self-care tool and an aspect of mindfulness. Being able to focus on something positive helps us survive challenging times and equips us to tap into our reserves of energy and perseverance when we need to. The strength we gain from practising gratitude enables us to speak up about injustice or say no to an unfair roster or call out bad behaviour.

The daily practice of gratitude might include:

Thank you for reading this article and thank you for the work you are doing.

Kay Dunkley
AMA Victoria Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing



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