Positive psychology has been accumulating data on gratitude for more than ten years, studying over one thousand people to evaluate the effect of this habit on mood, health, and relationships. The results are in and it’s overwhelmingly POSITIVE! Gratitude is good for you.
Regular gratitude work-outs are proven to build immunity, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and increase other health habits like exercise and good eating. Psychologically speaking, consistent gratitude habits increase positive emotions, energize alertness, and enhance joy and overall happiness. But wait there’s more . . . What can a routine of gratitude do to your relationships? Grateful people tend to put their gratitude into action more regularly. Behaviors like helpfulness, generosity, compassion, and kindness can make a big impact on relationships.
You already have a busy life, so consider what level of gratitude fitness will be sustainable. I’ve collected three research based exercises for you to consider this month.
Are you ready for monthly, weekly, or a daily challenge?
Monthly: Thank you notes.
- Thank You stationary or cards
- Nice pen
- Notebook paper for rough draft
Momentary gratitude is an automatic for most people. However, heart-felt long-hand written and snail- mail-delivered thank yous are fading away. Boost your gratitude metabolism by reviving this lost art form. Take some time to reflect on someone who brings joy to your life. Jot down special memories and impacts that elicit genuine feelings of gratitude towards this person. Allow yourself to be vulnerable in acknowledging this relationship. When you are satisfied with your note, transfer it to the pretty paper and then mail it. The positive feeling from the note begins with the idea to write it, the time to reflect, and the memories evoked during reflection. You may not get a response (although that would be a bonus) the purpose is in developing gratitude awareness.
Weekly: Change for Good
- Clean glass jar
- Spare change
All those loose coins that gather over the course of a week can be a great gratitude reminder. Empty your pockets (maybe check the couch cushions) once a week and transfer them one at a time into a clean glass jar. With each coin reflect on an event or an action that made your week brighter. Be specific to add weight to this exercise. Examples could be good weather for an outside function, hearing little kid giggles, or taking a walk with your best friend. Once the jar is filled donate the money to a person or organization of your choice.
Daily: Get GLAD
- Spiral bound index cards
- Writing utensil
This daily habit is a quick burst of awareness that will build strong gratitude muscles over time.
On the top of each card record the date and then write about something:
Grateful. Don’t leave out the details. Listing “my friend” does not have the impact that “my friend called today and asked about my sick Aunt Lillian.”
Learned. Remember that dialogue dance from your parenting days “What did you learn today?” and the typical response “Nothing.” You may have to break a sweat on this part of the practice but if you are stumped with what you have learned, then by all means google something that makes you curious.
Accomplished. Getting dressed may be all that you accomplish on a no good, very bad, day but it counts. Little accomplishments over time complete bigger project goals.
Delighted. Seeking the feeling of delight focuses your attention on the small pleasures of life. Writing this post I was delighted to see a red cardinal at my birdfeeder. His bright feathers were a sharp contrast to a grey landscape outside.
We know that regular exercise changes how you look at health, and we have learned that regular gratitude changes how you look at life. Stress, loss, and daily hassles can turn our attention away from the many things in life that bring us joy.
January postings will focus on developing the gratitude mindset, increasing our awareness to the joys in life right now- in this moment.
Want to surf the web to learn more about Gratitude?
www.greatergood.berkely.edu The Science of a Meaningful Life is a website where regular positive psychology superheroes contribute research findings.
www.mindfulpractices.com website of Donald Altman, MA, LPC. Altman is a therapist, powerful public speaker, and developer of the GLAD technique.