Robert Emmons joined us to give us some EYE-POPPING (his words, my all caps!) stats: “People are 25 percent happier if they keep gratitude journals, sleep one-half hour more per evening, and exercise 33 percent more each week compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.”
Today I want to chat about HOW to build our gratitude.
First, know this: “Because it is a virtue, gratitude, at least initially, requires mental discipline. Virtues do not come easily, and in some sense, we need them as they act as a counterpart to our natural tendencies. This is the paradox of gratitude: although the evidence is clear that cultivating gratitude in our life and in our attitude to life allows us to flourish, it can be difficult to accomplish. Developing and sustaining a grateful outlook on life is easier said than done because the choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort.”
The fact that cultivating virtue takes “real effort” is not a newsflash but it is an important reminder.
Good news: “We can put the science of gratitude to work for us, however. A number of evidence-based strategies, including self-guided journaling, reflective thinking, letter writing, and gratitude visits, have shown to be effective in creating sustainable gratefulness.”
Let’s bring Robert back again to tell us about his #1 recommended practice: GRATITUDE JOURNALING.
He tells us: “One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. When we are grateful, we affirm that sources of goodness exist in our lives. By writing each day, we magnify and expand on these sources of goodness. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with even mundane or ordinary events, personal attributes one has, or valued people one encounters has the potential to weave together a sustainable life theme of gratefulness just as it nourishes a fundamentally affirming life stance. … Gratitude journaling promotes the savoring of positive life experiences and situations so that we can distill the maximum satisfaction and enjoyment from them. This promotes a shift in consciousness from what we are lacking to the abundance that surrounds us. Gratitude leads us to affirm and acknowledge the good things in our lives. … And because you can’t be grateful and negative at the same time, it counteracts feelings of envy, anger, greed, and other states harmful to happiness.”
As discussed, Robert and his colleague Mike McCullough were the first researchers to show the astounding benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. Their first study showed that 25% (!!) boost in happiness by journaling about 5 things for which you were grateful once a week for 10 consecutive weeks.
Robert gives us ten tips to rock our journaling. Here are a few key things to keep in mind.
First, writing (vs. just thinking about it) is important: “The act of writing down your blessings translates your thoughts into words, and writing has been shown to have advantages over just thinking the thoughts. Writing helps to organize thoughts, facilitate integration, and helps you accept your own experiences and put them in context.”
Robert encourages us to take five to ten minutes to write at least every other day. He encourages us to do it daily WHILE avoiding what researchers call “gratitude fatigue” by keeping our reflections fresh. He tells us “Seek gratitude density. Be specific. Go for depth over breadth. Give details for each entry. The journal is more than just a list of stuff.”
Another way to keep things fresh is to “include some surprises. What unexpected blessings did you benefit from today? What were you dreading that did not happen?”
He also tells us (many times throughout the book!) to “Use the language of gifts. Think of the benefits you received today as gifts. Relish and savor the gifts you have been given.”
There ya go.
That’s Today’s +1.
Gratitude journaling. It does a mind body soul good.
What are three things for which YOU are grateful for Today? If you feel so inspired, take a moment and write a sentence for three things right now. Don’t “just do it.” FEEL IT.
Here’s to savoring the awesome!