Practice of Gratitude
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Why war? Why terrorism? Why aggression, apathy, and hatred toward each other develop? Why does kindness turn merely into naïve and utopian word? Why do people have the constant urge to dominate without further thinking? Why do people strive only for the purpose of their own group over universal peace? These questions arise as conflicts among nations, groups, or person do not seem to end. This commotion, whether blatant or subtle, seems to get worse instead, just like stones that pile up higher and higher, creating some kind of barrier inhibiting us to build peace on earth.
In 1998, Martin Seligman promoted a branch of psychology entitled positive psychology. This approach of study stresses on human virtue rather than vice. According to this study, key element for sparking positive changes in individuals, organizations, and nation is gratitude. Gratitude is defined as emotion expressing sincere appreciation for what we have. Gratitude is scientifically associated with optimism, empathy, and happy life.
There are two main reasons why gratitude can lead to peace of self. First, gratitude has the role as precursor and moral consequences for both benefactor and beneficent. As a precursor, it enables us to feel sufficient to give and care for another people. The act of giving is proven as one factor to establish a happier life. We feel good when we give. We feel bad when we cannot help. As a consequence, gratitude leads us thinking and feeling that everything we have, whether given or earned, are great blessings in life. This positive feeling reinforces us to behave kindheartedly. I must say I agree with Erich Fromm when he says “Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much.”
Second, gratitude demonstrates its ability to maintain resilience. By feeling gratitude, an individual has the capacity to thrive during difficult times. This can be extremely helpful to cope with stress and offers protection against psychiatric disorders. We can never avoid stress in our lives, but still, we can master ourselves in facing all the obstacles and keep our minds and hearts at peace. I know you’re tired of hearing this, it’s easier said that done. Basically, not everything will be okay, but most things will be.
Now, the question is how to promote gratitude to ourselves and the society? There are some simple yet meaningful steps we could take. Basically, gratitude expands from positive feelings about ourselves and what we have (but not merely material possession). According to Lyubumirsky, engaging in altruistic behavior can enhance happiness. By habitually helping others through wide range of acts of services, we can learn to feel positive.
Beside that, a simpler step we can do every day is by expressing gratitude. This feeling can be addressed to ourselves and other people. Science has proven that daily diary techniques or writing everything we’re thankful of everyday can be powerful induction for getting individuals to experience gratitude. On the other hand, writing a letter to someone who has a significant role in our life can foster our relationships and nurture the reciprocity of kindness among us.
Peace may sound like a dream and too good to be true. But consider, these steps may seem trivial, yet by doing these very simple techniques together and wholeheartedly, we can improve our well-being. By collaborating in doing these, we can spark huge positive effects and build peace not only in our hearts and minds but also in everyone else. Never underestimate the power of small yet sincere acts of kindness. Even a long journey started by a simple step.