How to Improve Well-Being Through Grit and Gratitude

Vicki Enns

What promotes positive mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual health? This can sometimes be a frustrating pursuit, with confusing and contradictory messages of what we need to become more resilient and improve our overall well-being. Most of us already do many things in our daily lives in the hope of staying or becoming healthier. I have been encouraged by my discovery that one of the most beneficial things we can do is build on qualities we already have within us – grit and gratitude.

 

Gratitude

There is a growing body of research that highlights the benefits of what many of us have been taught as essential to being well in this world – noticing what you are grateful for in life. It turns out that taking time to notice, name, and express gratitude has many positive impacts:

  • Reduction in stress, depression, and hopelessness
  • Improved sleep and overall mood
  • Increased sense of motivation and agency in life
  • Expanded sense of positive self-esteem
  • Improved relationships and greater appreciation of others
  • Deepened sense of spirituality
  • Increased creativity and openness
  • Increased hopefulness
One of the most beneficial things we can do is build on qualities we already have within us – grit and gratitude.

When we cultivate a positive outlook and take time to really notice, absorb, and express gratitude, we are deepening an important state in our mind and body. The positive effects ripple into other parts of our experience and into our relationships. However, one catch is that gratitude is notably fleeting. Although it is readily accessible, it is easy to lose a hold of it, and our attention can move quickly to focus more on what we find stressful. Our natural survival instincts push us back toward watching out for what worries us, and problems we may be facing resurface and grab our attention.

Which brings me to the other quality we all need . . . grit.

Grit

What do you rely on to get you through a tough day? What behaviours, supports, or messages do you reach for to help you continue to show up and carry on? We all have patterns of coping – in how we think, collaborate, or sustain ourselves when we face challenges. One word for this quality, supported by the research of Angela Duckworth, is grit. Each person’s grit will look different, and we may use it to different degrees. When we are able to tap into our grit, the benefits include:

  • Increased ability to persevere
  • Expanded response and ability to adapt to challenges
  • Persistence to face our fears
  • Growth in self-esteem and confidence
  • Increased hopefulness
  • Development of a growth mindset
  • Increased likelihood of achieving positive change
  • Long-term success and satisfaction

Your grit is fueled by what matters to you – do you have particular goals you’re pursuing? What do you care about and feel passion for?

The more aware we are of our purpose and passion, the grittier we will become!

Building on Grit and Gratitude

In some ways, these two qualities can seem somewhat contradictory. Gratitude requires us to pause, relinquish our push for change, and shift to noticing the positive things that are already in our lives and relationships. Grit allows us to keep moving, to notice and confront what might be challenging or feel negative in our lives – it propels us into more adaptable change.

Taking a small amount of time to consistently notice what already matters to you can greatly increase your mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual well-being.

There is an interesting and symbiotic relationship between these two qualities. When I have a hard time accessing gratitude, it’s my grit that I rely on to cope with a challenging situation. When I feel depleted and far from gritty, pausing to connect with gratitude refuels my hope and energy for perseverance.

What is encouraging to me about the benefit of both these qualities is how accessible they are to each of us.

Here is how you can access more of the benefits of your grit and gratitude:

  1. Observe it. Take a moment to name one thing you are grateful for and one thing that helps you persevere.
  2. Express it. Journal, write it down, or say it out loud to yourself or a friend. Draw it, sing it, or build or sculpt it. Making it a bit more tangible in some ways will deepen its meaning and help you absorb the benefits.
  3. Practice it. Choose a way to regularly practice the first two steps. The research about both gratitude and grit clearly reveals the importance of developing patterns and habits that bring us to openly and regularly connect with these qualities.

Taking a small amount of time to consistently notice what already matters to you can greatly increase your mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual well-being. Knowing what you are grateful for and what you find challenging about this allows you to tap into this powerful tension between gratitude and grit – building on one helps fuel and nurture the other. In the end, your well-being and relationships will be strengthened by tapping into these inherent qualities.


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Author: Vicki Enns (MMFT, RMFT)
Clinical Director, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

Vicki is a co-author of CTRI’s latest book, Counselling in Relationships –  Insights for Helping Families Develop Healthy Connections. The book is available on our website.

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