Simple steps to creating a gratitude practice

In only 21 days you can rewire your brain to start scanning the world for the positive

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The importance of Gratitude

Gratitude – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

synonyms:

gratefulness · thankfulness · thanks · appreciation · recognition · acknowledgement · credit · regard · respect · sense of obligation · indebtedness

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Another leading researcher and the founder of the field of Positive Psychology Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control group. Participants were assigned different tasks each week including writing about early memories. One week their assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. After this week, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Writing a letter of gratitude and personally delivering it had a huge increase in happiness scores that lasted for a month!

The amazing benefits of gratitude

According to the Resilience Project it is possible to use a gratitude practice to rewire your brain to scan the world for positivity and it only takes 21 days. Then after 42 days you –

  • Are less likely to get sick
  • Have higher energy
  • Feel happier
  • Are more enthusiastic
  • Are more attentive
  • Are more determined
  • Are more optimistic
  • Have a better quality of sleep
  • Have lower levels of depression and anxiety

Easy gratitude practices

It is relatively easy to develop a gratitude practice and with a little discipline you can achieve the benefits above. Here are some simple ideas to get you started and all of them require a form of gratitude journal or log –

Option 1 – grab your gratitude journal and write down 3 things that went well for you today and do it every day, don’t worry if they are often the same and it is interesting to reflect on them from time to time

Option 2 – consider the following 3 questions at the end of every day and write the answers in your gratitude journal

  1. What was the best thing that happened to me today?
  2. Who am I most grateful to today and why?
  3. What am I looking forward to most about tomorrow?

Option 3 – text 5 things that you are grateful for to a trusted friend. This is my personal favourite. My best friend and I do this every night before we go to sleep. He has been struggling with anger and depression over the last few months and he acknowledges that the gratitude practice is definitely working to lift his mood. Some days it is harder than others, although I absolutely believe that…

Option 4 – say thank you regularly and really mean it. Many of us do this naturally, although there are certainly people out there who get so busy and stressed that they simply forgot to express gratitude. All it takes is a simple thank you to anyone who helps you or does something kind. For some people this can feel unnatural or forced at first and you don’t want to be excessive, or the positive impact can be reduced. With practice it will become an ingrained, automatic response and it will generate similar responses in others.It doesn’t always require the words ‘thank you’. There are other ways to express gratitude, for example, you can complement a colleague on a job well done or acknowledge how someone has helped you to achieve work outcomes.

Not all days are good days, although there is some good in every day!

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