Here's a question from a reader regarding the value of gratitude:
Several of my friends extol the power of being grateful and of keeping a daily gratitude log, and I just don't get it. I tried listing what I'm grateful for a few times, but it didn't do much for me; in fact, it feels trite and almost trendy to do so. Yet, I sense there may be some value underneath all of the commotion about gratitude. What's your take on it?
Interesting question, and I'm happy to share my take on it. I keep a gratitude log myself and will share more about that below. I can understand how too much lip service or an unquestioned obedience to doing it or how trying it only a few times might play down the value and meaning of such a potent practice, making it feel trite or trendy. So, let's look gratitude in the eyes and reconnect with its inherent power.
Gratitude or appreciation is a positive feeling of being grateful or thankful for a benefit that one has received or will receive.
I've read several articles about gratitude by psychologists Drs. Blair and Rita Justice, and how it influences our overall well-being. In one of their columns they explain that gratitude "is felt in the same frontal regions of the brain that are activated by awe, wonder and transcendence."
Gratitude makes us feel good, and we can cultivate happiness through gratitude practices!
The Justices also cite research done by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, who are researchers in the field of gratitude. In one experimental comparison, people who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. Dr. Emmons is the author of several books including, "Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier," which is available on Amazon.
The point I'm making with all of this is, yes, there may indeed be substantial value in thinking grateful thoughts, directly benefiting us mentally, emotionally and physically, and even aligning us spiritually. So, why not consider making it a practice, which is really as easy as choosing thoughts of appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis.
Your Daily Gratitude Log: 30 Days and Beyond
To experience more pleasure and optimism naturally and consistently, I recommend that you start your gratitude journal today and commit to writing down all that you're grateful for on a daily basis for the next 30 days. This should move you past the trite and trendy or superficial level, and into a deeper and more meaningful experience of gratitude and its pleasant side effects. If you are happy with your results after 30 days, keep going.
Log your gratitude at night before bed or first thing in the morning, whichever feels best for you. I'm often too sleepy to do it at night, so I usually write in my gratitude journal in the morning with coffee, after I've meditated. I use a three-ring binder, but you can use any kind of notepad or journal you like.
My experience has shown that consistent gratitude yields positive results. Therefore, whatever time of day or night you choose to write in your gratitude journal is fine as long as you're consistent. It's also important to honor those times when you just don't feel like doing it. So, if you miss a day, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and simply pick it back up the next day. But be sure to pick it back up so that you can continue experiencing the benefits.
Sit quietly with your gratitude journal. Start listing what you feel grateful for. Try to list at least 10 each day, and feel free to list more.
You can list anything you feel grateful for. For example, your friends, your electric toothbrush, your new sneakers, the loving email you received from your sister, your lover, that little flower popping up through the crack in the sidewalk, your job, dark chocolate, the kindness of a stranger, etc.
Do this once a day for 30 days, and keep it up after that to continue the rewards.
The Gratitude 500 Challenge
I've recently made a game of writing in my gratitude journal, to make it fun and not a 'must do', and to help me stay excited about logging daily and sticking with it. I call it the Gratitude 500 Challenge, and it was inspired by my friend Christine. Each morning, I open my gratitude binder, number the lines for 10 entries, then write 10 things I'm grateful for. Inevitably, when I get to the 10th item, I'm feeling more inspired and want to list more, so I number the next 10 lines, and write 10 more, and so on. The next day I pick up the count from where I left off. Twenty seems to be my daily average, but it varies. Five hundred is not my daily target (!), however it's part of the game and inspires me to log gratitude consistently. Once I reach 500, I reward myself with a small gift, and then I start a new Gratitude 500 Challenge. Try it!
Here's an example of a gratitude listing.
Today I am grateful for:
1. My car
2. My great mechanic
3. My wonderful clients
4. My mom and dad, and sisters
5. My friends
6. this beautiful weather
7. How gratitude is positively shifting my life
8. The trees and mountains I see from my window, and the song birds
9. My commitment to my well being and the well being of others
10. My clean and quiet gym
Gratitude for Life Creates a Win-Win Situation
Another benefit I've noticed as a result of keeping a daily gratitude log is that I'm more grateful and peaceful overall. In other words, pleasure is not something I feel only when I'm writing in my log, but something I feel more consistently throughout each day, and that feels good! Gratitude for life aligns us with life, and places us in the 'flow' of life. I'm not saying that life does not offer its adversities, but from a place of gratitude, even adversities can be seen as opportunities for change, growth and greater loving. In gratitude, I'm more awed by my surroundings, more curious about life, more responsible, more caring and loving, energized by service work, happier, healthier, more optimistic and I complain much less, which feels way more empowering.
So, please join me in getting high on gratitude. In service to naturally raising serotonin levels, I close with a few quotes on gratitude.
"Find the good and praise it." -- Alex Haley
"Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty." -- Doris Day
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein
"When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears." -- Anthony Robbins
"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." -- Melody Beattie
Your Coach, Maddisen
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Copyright 2010 Maddisen K. Krown