Did you know that people who are grateful and express gratitude are happier and stress free? It’s been scientifically proven that expressing gratitude reduces stress and increases well-being.
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Write Down what you are Grateful For.
This is a simple exercise but one that is very powerful. We may know what we are grateful for in our hearts but taking the time to write those things down brings a new sense of awareness to our gratitude.
For this step, it is important to physically write down our gratitude. Thinking grateful thoughts is good but physically sitting down and writing your gratitude on paper brings a centeredness to our thoughts and minds.
First, find a quiet spot. Turn off the TV and your cell phone. Moms, you may have to lock yourselves in the bathroom for this one. If possible, dim the lights and light a candle.
Now, take a journal, a sheet of paper, or use the free workbook I provided (in the resource library, sign up for the email list for access.) Write down as many things that you are grateful for as possible. Some will be simple things like “I like my eyes.” Others might be more deep and complex like, “I’m grateful for the mistakes I have made because they make me a stronger person.”
Next, try to get more specific on each of your gratitude sentences. If you like your eyes, why do you like your eyes? If you’re grateful for past mistakes, what specific mistake are you grateful for? How did things turn out after the mistake? The more specific you are with your thanks, the better you will feel.
Gratitude means being thankful, counting your blessings, and acknowledging the simple pleasures in life. Be grateful for a child’s laughter, or the cool breeze on an Autumn day. Gratitude means being aware and present in your daily life. It means noticing the small things, the kind woman at the check-out, the guy that let you merge into traffic this morning, having a roof over your head. Professing gratitude shifts our focus from what we feel is lacking in our lives, to relishing the abundance that this beautiful world provides.
This is hard sometimes. I GET IT!
Life can kick you in the pants from time to time (or often.) However, it’s easy forget to stop and appreciate the good that is already present in life. Focusing on giving thanks reminds you of the positive abundance already present in your life. Turning your focus to the things you are thankful for allows the mind not to dwell on the negatives.
This isn’t just a feel-good sentiment, it’s backed up by science. Psychological research shows that being thankful and expressing gratitude overwhelmingly improves people’s attitudes. Feelings of gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and just plain makes people happier.
Scientific Research On Gratitude
Drs. Michael McCollough and Robert Emmons, two psychologists who study human behavior, conducted a study on gratitude and it’s impact on health and well-being. They split a large group of participants into three groups and asked them to keep a daily diary or journal. The first group was only asked to write down the happenings of their day. They instructed the second group to write down the day’s negative experiences. The third group was told to write a daily list of things they were grateful for. After they compiled the data, the psychologists found that the group listing their daily gratitude recounted higher levels of optimism, determination, alertness, and energy. The third group also felt less stress and depression, exercised more regularly, achieved personal goals at a higher frequency, and were more apt to help others.
Emmons wrote the book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. The book uses the study mentioned above plus other research conducted by a number of scientists. It concludes that practicing gratitude can increase our happiness by 25%. We all have a normal “resting” happiness rate that ebbs and flows throughout the day but usually levels out at our normal rate. These scientists found that by practicing gratitude, we can raise our “resting” happiness quotient or “happiness set-point” by 25%. Emmons points out “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
Practicing Gratitude: The Next Step
Today’s exercise is to write down everything you are grateful for. For each subsequent day of this 31 day challenge, write down one thing you are grateful for.
Choose what time of day you want to do this. If you can find more quiet time in the morning, do it then. If you’d prefer, write down your item of gratitude at the end of the day so that you can reflect on the happenings of the day. Try to be as consistent as possible. The most important thing though, is to do it. Try to write down something that you are grateful for everyday.
Once you focus on gratitude, it will be easier to acknowledge all the wonderful things you previously took for granted. Gratitude is not about reacting to things you want, it is about appreciating the things you have. Once you master this mind-set, more things to be grateful for will come your way.