By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

"STRONGER TOGETHER" IS A WEEKLY COLUMN WHERE TANYA EXPLORES KEY ISSUES. TODAY TANYA TALKS ABOUT THE POWER THAT GRATITUDE CAN HAVE IN OUR LIVES.

Receiving a letter or expression of gratitude from another person is incredibly powerful. Being grateful for what we have instead of wanting more or taking others for granted is a pitfall that we can all experience - at times more often than we realise. So how can we build our gratitude muscle?

A few months ago, I received a gratitude card. The card was filled with praise and positive things and although the sentiment was incredibly special, the thing that sparked my interest initially was ‘who could have sent this?’. Fortunately, this quickly passed as I refocused my attention on appreciating the kind words and the generous nature of the act itself. This act was simple yet powerfully uplifting, leaving me with the feeling you get when you win a prize or competition. The card has taken pride of place on my desk as a daily reminder that at some point, someone out there appreciated me for something that I had done.

The sender was soon revealed, yet there was a part of me that wished that the mystery had remained unsolved. The generous nature of the act itself was what truly mattered, reminding me how simple acts of gratitude can have a compelling effect on people and their capacity to cultivate happiness, kindness and compassion.

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Improve your quality of life

Research suggests that being grateful and expressing gratitude towards others can improve our happiness and quality of life. Gratitude enhances empathy, improves physical health, mental wellbeing, quality of sleep, self-esteem and also has the capacity to reduce stress. Identifying what we have to be grateful for, especially during our most challenging times, can foster resilience and improve our hope for the future.

Keen to give it a try? Here are a few simple ways to get started.

  1. Write thank you notes. Mix it up with a mixture of personally delivered and unauthored posted cards – maybe even write one to yourself occasionally! Research suggests that this practice can increase personal wellbeing and happiness – what are you waiting for?
  2. Keeping a gratitude journal. This practice has been pretty patchy for me to date, but I now have a journal beside my bed and record the top five things that I am grateful for before hitting the pillow. A 2005 study found that writing three positive things every night for one week can increase a person’s happiness for up to six months.
  3. Practice mindfulness: I have an incredible respect for mindfulness and its ability to expand awareness and cultivate understanding and appreciation of self and others. Being present, without judgement, and noticing what is happening within the environment and how that is affecting our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations is a powerful gift.

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Start small

Simply start by observing and noticing the things that you or the people around you are doing each day that you appreciate or are thankful for. Notice what it is and make a mental or written note of who did it and why you are grateful to have noticed it. Keep practicing and noticing until those observations and notes become habit forming, and the art of showing gratitude towards yourself and others becomes part of your daily practice.