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:
- Keeping a gratitude journal
- Sharing what you are grateful for with a friend or colleague
- Saying thank you genuinely when someone is helpful
- Writing thank you notes
- Appreciating beautiful things in the natural environment around you
- Noticing when you enjoy the flavour and texture of your food
- Appreciating yourself
- Saying a thanksgiving prayer
Thank you for reading this article and thank you for the work you are doing.
AMA Victoria Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing
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- The science behind gratitude (and how it can change your life) | Happify
- The science of gratitude | Tremendousness
- Louie Schwartzberg on gratitude | TEDx
- Giving thanks can make you happier | Harvard Medical School
- A positive mindset can help your heart | Harvard Medical School