Mind & Body

According to Pinterest, everyone’s hungry for gratitude: but why?

Recent Pinterest data has shown that searches for “gratitude” have soared in the past few months – so what is it about COVID-19 that has us so focused on practicing gratitude, and what does it actually involve?

According to recently released Pinterest data, searches for mental wellbeing have reached their highest peak ever, with searches for ‘gratitude’ up 61 per cent.

Clearly we’re all in need of a little self-care right now, but what does that even mean in 2020? And how do you actually “practice gratitude”? We dove headfirst into the trend to find the answers.

What it “practicing gratitude” all about?

Practicing gratitude may just seem like something modern day yogis and new age mums do on Instagram, but it’s actually not as woo-woo as you think.

In fact, there’s a growing body of scientific research around the practice and its mental health and wellbeing benefits. Studies like this one from Clinical Psychology Review prove it can lower the risk of developing many mental health conditions including depression and anxiety, and this one from Psychotherapy Research Journal saw the positive effects on those with pre-existing mental health concerns who were already undertaking psychotherapy.

Another upside is that it also improves your general life outlook and optimism – something that we all desperately need in 2020.

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Is gratitude just about being thankful?

The short answer is yes, but the practice of it can take many forms including personal journaling, literally “counting your blessings” by reciting the things you are grateful for each day, saying them aloud alone or to a partner, writing gratitude letters to other people expressing your thanks, and incorporating it into a daily meditation. What you lean towards is up to individual preference.

Jacqui Lewis, founder of The Broad Place believes that gratitude works best when we place our attention on the smaller things, instead of the big-ticket items in our life.

“For example, in an evening, bringing to mind three small things that happened during the day – maybe it was a coffee enjoyed the sun, or a moment’s quiet at sunrise, or a lovely email – this helps us stay present to what is happening rather than using broad brushstrokes over our life,” she says.

Jacqui is also a big believer in writing down those three things as it’s helpful for processing gratitude in the brain. “We are more likely to retain a negative impression than a positive one, so reinforcing the positive is really helpful to allowing the brain to wire that experience in,” she says.

So, what does gratitude have to do with 2020?

In case you missed the memo, this year has been a bit of a mess. Between ravaging fires, cultural unrest, natural disasters and a little global pandemic, most people are just desperately trying to control+alt+delete it, and start afresh in 2021. But it’s times like these that gratitude can really have the most positive effects.

Jacqui says, “it’s a practice that raises our awareness, our happy hormones and our sense of peace, and during a pandemic these things are more important than ever. Personally, gratitude is incredibly important for me in keeping perspective and it’s like a counterweight to negative or wild thinking”.

It’s a tool that she’s personally used a lot this year after the pandemic forced her and her family to unexpectedly leave their life in London and return to Oz.

“Gratitude has kept our whole family focused on what’s important and what we do have available to us – our health, our joy, nature, our friends and families who have been so supportive, whilst everything else went sideways.”

And here’s some more food for thought: It can take as little at 21 days of daily practice to improve your overall optimism, and eight weeks to start to form new brain patterns and neural pathways that help lay the foundation of your newfound happiness. It is quite literally happy brain food.

Practical tips for practicing gratitude

Appreciate the small things: Your first cup of coffee, a quiet house, that perfectly painted nail. It doesn’t have to all be about the big stuff.

Practice daily: It need only take a minute of your time to write or recite the things you are grateful for, but this is enough to flex your gratitude muscle so that you will, in time, naturally gravitate toward the positive mindset.

Try mindfulness: If you can, take five minutes out of your day to sit with yourself and think about the things you are grateful for, letting the feeling of gratitude to really sink in. Allowing these positive feelings to really penetrate will help to rewire your brains and reshape your thoughts for a more positive outlook.

Journal: If you are struggling at first to think of what you are grateful for, keep a notebook where you jot down the things that made you feel warm and fuzzy that day – then refer back to it for your practice.

Share your gratitude: Think of this as supercharging your gratitude. By expressing your thanks to others, it will not only make them feel good but increase your feeling of happiness too.