Action 30

I can express gratitude which is an emotion and be grateful. I convey my appreciation to those who have helped me. (Say “Thank you” and “Please”). Gratitude also refers to noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life and feeling awe when encountering beauty in the world.

Gratitude is to the past what hope is to the future and it can serve as a sort of “pump primer” for hope. Gratitude is the soil from which positive emotions like joy flourish. Appreciation is like an investment in your own strengths. As Cicero observed, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all the virtues, but the parent of all other virtues.”

Useful Information

People who are grateful tend to be less depressed, angry, hostile and less emotionally vulnerable. They experience positive emotions like happiness more frequently, have better social relationships and have better conflict resolution skills. Gratitude serves to find, remind and bind people to caring individuals in their lives. Grateful individuals are more willing to forgive others and themselves. They derive health benefits and they even sleep better than individuals who are infrequently grateful.

Gratitude confers resilience and builds interpersonal bonds and “social currency” that can be cashed in or traded in when needed.

How To: Steps to Improve My Level of Gratitude and Make Gratitude a Daily Habit

  1. Keep a “Gratitude Diary,” a log or running account on a nightly basis of one to three things for which I am grateful or that went well during the day, or helpful and grateful caring acts I performed that day. They may be small things or big things. (See for an example of such a Gratitude Diary procedure).
  2. Reflect daily on something for which I am grateful (grateful contemplation) and what this experience meant to me.
  3. Create a list of my “top three peak experiences” and now visualize them in my mind. How does this make me feel?
  4. Behavioral expressions of gratitude. Express gratitude to someone I have never properly thanked. Write a letter to a benefactor, mentor or helper thanking him/her for assistance; visit the person and read the letter.
  5. Increase kind acts. Be helpful to others, altruistic. Spice up kindness. Put my gratitude “in the bank of social currency” that I can call upon later.
  6. Use my “signature strengths” and “islands of competence” in new ways to help others.
  7. Give examples for the following:
    • “I have so much in life to be thankful for.”
    • “I am really thankful for friends and family.”
    • “I reflect on how fortunate I am to have basic things in life like food, clothing and shelter.”
    • “When I see natural beauty, I feel like a child who is awestruck.”
    • “I stop and enjoy my life as it is. I can stop and smell the roses.”
    • “ I realize life is short. Thinking about dying reminds me to live every day to the fullest.”
    • “When I see someone less fortunate than myself I realize how lucky I am.”
    • “I am grateful for that which I have and do not long for that which I do not have.”
    • “Being content is a gift I give myself.”

Remember I can move forward by giving back and moving from “me” to “we.” Consider the following example offered by an NCO:

“I talked to my eight-year-old son last night. He told me about an award he won at school, and usually, I’d just say something like ‘that’s nice’. But I used the skill on how to show gratitude by asking a bunch of questions about it. ‘Who was there when he got the award? How did he feel receiving it? Where’s he going to hang the award? And about halfway through the conversation he interrupted me and said, ‘Dad is this really you?’ I know what he meant by that. This was the longest we ever talked, and I think we were both surprised by it.”

How To: Regulate Negative Emotions

Emotional regulation is the process by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express them.

This section will provide specific ways you can ensure that your emotions/feelings do not get in the way of your achieving your personal goals. These are practical steps you can take preemptively before an emotion is fully felt and constructive steps you can take after an emotion is experienced.

There are different ways to handle emotions. Sometimes individuals conceal their emotions (suppress, clam up, use distractions and avoidant strategies); other times individuals work to self-regulate their emotions (control, reframe and share their feelings with supportive others); and other times individuals learn to tolerate their emotions (be open to experience their feelings, ride out their emotions, accept their feelings).

There is no right way to handle emotions. It depends on what the situation demands and what are the individual’s personal goals. Emotionally-fit and resilient individuals are flexible in choosing what strategy they use as incorporated in a form of psychotherapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy as described by Koerner and Linehan (2011).

Action 31