With a title like that you might have expected me to express some gratitude – and eventually I will, I promise, but to begin I want to tell you a bit about some of the current research on the practice of gratitude – so that you know why I am starting to engage in this as a regular practice, and why I am inviting YOU to join me.
Sonja Lyubomirsky researched (and wrote about in her great book: The How of Happiness) the happiness activity of Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking. Here is some of what she said about why it is so powerful.
Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of hostility, envy, worry and irritation. Defined by the world’s most prominent researcher and writer on gratitude, Robert Emmons, as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life”. Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem, it helps people cope with stress and trauma (by focusing on how good life is as oppose to how much better it could be), it can help people adjust to new circumstances and move on with life, and it inhibits comparisons with others.
Sonja goes on to say there is a whole range of WAYS that you can practice gratitude, finding the one that works best for you is important in being able to maintain it and make if fun (ok, I said the part about the fun, but really… if it isn’t fun, what is the point?). Further to that, mixing up different strategies, to keep the practice fresh, is also important.
- Gratitude Journal – doesn’t take much explaining. Ponder and record the 3 to 5 things for which you are currently grateful, from “the mundane to the magnificent”. The research suggests that on average doing this once a week is most likely to boost happiness. (Which, obviously, is why I am now going to be doing this practice weekly, on my blog, and posting to FB, every Sunday and why I invite you to play along). You can keep this fresh by dedicating different weeks to different areas of your life to count your blessings in.
- Other paths to gratitude – everyone needs to find the way that works best for them, maybe you want to pick one thing that you are taking for granted, and really acknowledge and appreciate it. Or you might want to pick an ungrateful thought and find the way to substitute a grateful one for it. Or find a buddy to do this activity with [again, one more reason I am going to do this publicly, and would love to hear what you are grateful for].
- Express gratitude directly to another – is there someone in your life that you owe a debt of gratitude? Find a way to concretely and directly express that to them, write a letter and give it them, go to visit them, whatever works for you. BTW, research suggests that even just writing the letter creates substantial boosts in happiness, regardless of whether you give it to them.
So here is where I am going with this… once a week, on Sunday (seems like a good day for gratitude), I am going to list 5 things for which I am currently grateful. My invitation to you is to participate right along with me. List your 3 to 5 things that you are currently grateful for. And then, during the week, if you are having a crappy day, or a frustrating time, or whatever, return to this blog and remember. Remember GRATITUDE and remember what you are grateful for, and hey, maybe even write up what you are grateful for in this new moment.
Here is my first list of 5 things I am grateful for right now…