The attitude of gratitude

The attitude of gratitude

The happiest people are not the ones who have the best things in the world, but the ones who are thankful for what they have. Suja Natarajan shows how to practise gratitude.

Didn’t it warm your heart when the hero in Munnabhai MBBS tightly hugged an under-
valued janitor and thanked him for keeping the hospital floors clean? A simple act of gratitude, in true Bollywood style, healed, energised and transformed a bitter janitor into a positive and motivated person.

In this ultra-busy world, gratitude is, often, in short supply. We forget to
appreciate the present as we are busy chasing things that we believe will bring us happiness and success in the future. The focus is, invariably, on what we don’t have.

Psychologists affirm that once we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, it shifts our perspective in life, enabling us to enjoy and appreciate the present.

It took a road accident for Samhita Prakash to reach this realisation. “I thought it was the end of my life, but within seconds, I took control of my vehicle and escaped unhurt. On that day, I had left home after a tiff with my parents regarding something trivial,” shares the banker. Today, she feels fortunate to be alive and “has a heightened sense of
appreciation towards life”.

Scientific studies suggest that a generous serving of gratitude can improve the health of people across ages. Researchers observe that people who are grateful report fewer health problems and face a lower risk of heart attacks. Gratitude helps keep you calm and
reduces the chances of depression.

Grateful people are, typically, more energetic, healthier and happier. Also, when it comes to happy, healthy relationships, gratitude is an essential ingredient. Grateful people are more likeable as they exude the warmth of happiness and positivity, and thereby, tend to maintain strong relationships.

Small is beautiful
It’s not everyday that you come across someone whom you can emotionally connect with. Most of us have testy interactions – to put it mildly - with executives who cater to us over the phone. However, Hamsa Vignesh still remembers the warmth of the customer service executive from her bank, who she spoke to a couple of years ago. “I had lost my wallet and nearly had a panic attack. When I called up the bank to cancel my credit card, I was incoherent, trying to give the card details to the customer service representative. She listened patiently and made an effort to comfort me,” recalls the homemaker.

Little things can make a difference when it comes to showing gratitude.
Hamsa made it a point to get the lady’s name and express her heartfelt thanks, before ending the conversation. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly smile, a kind word about a job well-done, a thoughtful thank-you note, a small appreciative favour, or a patient ear to someone who has  had a bad day.

It is easier, perhaps, to feel grateful when life glides the way we want.
However, when the going gets tough, gratitude is the first to be shown the door. “It is easy to feel grateful for the good things. In times of uncertainty, people realise how powerless they are to control their own destiny. If you begin to see that everything you have, everything you have counted on, maybe taken away, it becomes harder to take it for granted. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall,” says Robert A Emmons in his book, Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity.

When the monstrous waves of Tsunami hit Govindarajan’s small farm in 2004, it wiped away his livelihood and that of several others in his community. Despite that, gratitude has given him a fresh perspective to life. “The tsunami created a lot of damage, but it also brought an opportunity to our village. We were able to see our strengths and weaknesses, and now we feel we can cope with any disaster. It has helped us value our own capacity. We have better houses, better roads and drinking water because of the NGOs working here,” he explains.

Relationships are known to go downhill when the people involved tend to take each other for granted. Appreciation for small acts of kindness can energise, transform and enrich the relationship.

Something as simple as bathing and feeding the kids when the spouse is unwell can work wonders. “When down with cold, I tend to become extremely edgy. At such times, my husband bathes and feeds our twins – something I usually do every morning.  Doing small things without being asked makes me feel cared for. And I’m thankful for that,” says Dipali Ullal, a web designer.

Expressing gratitude is just as important as feeling it. Kavya Shree, a healthcare analyst, makes it a point to thank her mom for the effort that she puts into cooking that extra dish in the morning, amidst her busy schedule. “At that moment, my mom would shy away, but there is this small smile on her face…that helps us stay connected,” she says.

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