One may define gratitude as “the quality of being thankful.” Alternatively, we can think of it as an attitude, emotion, personal trait, or behavioural practice.
However, it is conceived, the quality of being grateful is a foundational component of daily social exchange and can carry deep meaning both on interpersonal and intrapersonal levels.
Perhaps not coincidentally, when learning a new language, “thanks” is often one of the first words taught and acquired. Expressing thanks is seen as a universal sign of acknowledgment, respect, and humility, and it transcends culture and time.
The very act conveys a caring for the other person in a connected relationship. When transacted genuinely, it solidifies meaning that something of value and worth has transpired. The act and reverberations leave both the person offering the gratitude and the person receiving it feeling better in general, as well as better about self and others.
This concept of gratitude is a main tenet of the Catholic faith and even forms the elemental basis of saying grace before a meal. It is also an integral purpose of Mass and prayer in general. Indeed, “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”
Practicing gratitude can be an integral part of knowing and maintaining real contentment. During tough times when we find life a struggle, being grateful for one’s whole circumstance and making a ritual out of gratitude may seem especially counterintuitive, yet it can provide an effective vehicle through those emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Despite this cognitive understanding regarding the conceptual importance of gratitude, practical offerings of gratitude can sometimes become more rote or a less genuinely felt part of our daily, lived experiences. When this happens, we can accidentally diminish a crucial source of spiritual connection and personal happiness.
Giving thanks is a vital way to connect to something larger than ourselves and enhances feelings of optimism and well-being in general. Stated differently, our mental health can actively be improved through purposeful practices of gratitude.
Realistic, positive self-appraisal helps bolster self-esteem, which in turn makes it that much easier to appreciate others. After all, we can often say gratitude is primarily about taking perspective. (Steven Alexander)