I’m a big fan of the book, Thanks: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons. Professor Emmons and his colleague Professor Mike McCullough have conducted many gratitude studies. They 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% 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)
(Emmons, p. 30)
So how does this gratitude journaling work? Every day, list three to five things you are grateful for. Emmons advises readers to keep it fresh. Don’t list the same things every single day. Consider how you are thankful for the difficult experiences in your life, either those you face right now or the ones you have overcome. Use your senses to expand your list of the things you are grateful for—what do you touch, taste, smell, hear, or see that fills you with gratitude?
As we wrap up another year, it might be helpful to review 2011 and list what you are grateful for. Mentally walk through your year, month by month, and write about the people who have supported you, the experiences that have stretched you, and the moments that have blessed you.
After you have done the basic step, challenge yourself to consider the why of each blessing. We spend a good deal of time complaining about the difficult things in our lives. We ask, “Why me?” about so much of our lives: why did I get sick, why didn’t I get the promotion, why did he break up with me, or why did that car cut me off? But we rarely ask why about the good things. Take a few moments at the end of your journaling session to write about why each of the blessings on your list came your way this year.
As I make my list for the year, I will be thankful for you, dear readers. You are a blessing in my life. Thanks for reading and passing on these tips. Thanks for writing to me with your comments and criticisms. Thanks for sharing with me your successes. You inspire me!