Playing with Gratitude
by Rochelle Melander
Many years ago, I read the book Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons. Professor Emmons and his colleague Professor Mike McCullough have conducted many gratitude studies. The first looked at the effects of gratitude journaling. All of the participants kept a journal and were asked to write a sentence a week for ten weeks. The first group described five things they were grateful for. The second group described five hassles. The neutral group simply listed five things that had affected them in the past week. After ten weeks, the gratitude group was 25 percent happier than the other participants. In addition, the gratitude group:
*felt better about their lives
*were more optimistic about the future
*reported fewer health complaints
*spent more time exercising (1.5 hours more per week)
With so much fear in the world right now, it seems like the perfect time to try out the science of being grateful. Here’s how to use writing and art to practice gratitude:
*Mind Map Gratitude. Using a mind map, diagram the people, places, and events you are grateful for. Draw a circle in the center of a large blank sheet of paper and record your central theme. For this exercise, you’d write gratitude. Then draw spokes out from the center and add more circles. These circles might contain gratitude categories like family, friends, and creature comforts. From there, add more lines and write down the specific people and items you are thankful for. Use lots of markers, crayons, or colored pencils to make your mind map vibrant and fun.
*Collage Gratitude. Cut out or find photos, images, and found objects that represent what you are grateful for. Assemble them into a collage and glue! If you don’t like playing with glue, pin items onto a bulletin board or stack them on a special gratitude shelf.
*Write it down! Once you’ve finished your gratitude mind map or collage, take your ideas and shape them into:
+A Gratitude Haiku.
+Thank you cards.
+A Field Guide to Gratitude.
Your turn: I made my gratitude list into a fun poster. How have you used writing and art to express gratitude? Comment below.