The Relationship Between Giving Back and Gratitude

From the time we young, most people recognize that giving gifts feels just as good, if not better than, the gratitude that comes from receiving them. In fact, the exchange of gifts and gratitude is part of what makes this time of year so special to cultures all around the world. The relationship between these two expressions of love is intertwined, a bond that keeps us connected. According to leading gratitude researcher Dr. Robert Emmons, the idea of receiving a gift is central to the experience of gratitude. When we feel deeply grateful, we feel cared for and perhaps even loved.

Woman writing in journal at sunset
Woman writing in journal at sunset

Using the simple “thank you” is a way of recognizing or honoring each other. As in the movie Avatar, the meta-message of the phrase “I see you” means that you matter and we are connected. When this connection is made, both the giver and receiver feel valued and visible. Showing appreciation acknowledges another human being and honors the interrelationship between “I” and “thou.”

Some of us find it difficult to be thankful, especially while in the throes of personal loss and life challenges. During the most traumatic phase of any loss or tragedy is exactly when we need to tune into each other for support, caring, and connection whether it is with loved ones or strangers. Our days rarely go according to plan or without unexpected challenges. The ability to appreciate the good is a special gift that some of us have. Others need to cultivate a sense of appreciation to transform our day-to-day lives.

Gratitude is a quality that can be cultivated with consistent practice. It is one of the secrets to health, happiness, and successful relationships. In a way we honor ourselves by appreciating others, because we all come together to create the greater whole.

The best news is that expressed gratitude tends to be contagious, creating a ripple effect of kindness and hope. The easiest way to express your daily gratitude is to write it down in a gratitude journal for 3-5 minutes before sleep. By cultivating your gratitude muscle, you will shift your focus from what your life lacks to the gifts that are already present.

Some of the Benefits of Gratitude Journal Writing

·The giver and receiver of gratitude receive mental and physical benefits.

·Over time this practice will likely stoke your creative juices and deepen your experience of positivity and optimism.

·You might notice yourself sleeping more soundly and having better dreams.

·Writing consistently in a gratitude journal will have lasting benefits on your ability to be resilient, to improve self-esteem and sense of well-being, and to have more fulfilling relationships.

What do you do to flex your gratitude muscle?

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