Welcome to Week #2 of our Positive Practice. This week we are talking about Gratitude. If you are just joining us, we are in the beginning throes of our 10 weeks of practice. These 10 practices are based on the 10 areas of positive emotions from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.
If you recall, each week we are going to learn ways to “broaden and build” upon positive emotions, Dr. Fredrickson’s bedrock philosophy. However, she cautions that positive emotions can be fragile and fleeting, so it’s important not to over analyze them. The most important thing is to be open to them and to savor them.
Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for
Synonyms: gratefulness, recognition, acknowledgement, hat tip, credit, regard, respect
Fueling the Gratitude Fires
Last week, North America witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event with the solar eclipse. It couldn’t be a bigger, more cosmic reminder of gratitude when the sun disappeared. The darkening of the sky enabled us to remember the awesomeness of the sun and its power. It made me think about the awesome and powerful things in my own life that get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of life.
Gratitude has been a bit of a buzz word in wellness circles for some time, credited in lage part to the work of leading gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons (he’s written multiple books on the topic, check them our HERE). According to Dr. Emmons and backed by his scientific research, gratitude can make you healthier, happier, and more strongly connected to others (also, the Greater Good Science center has some great resources on Dr. Emmon’s work).
In short, gratitude can boost your positive emotions!
What You Can Do
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Here are some ways that you can practice gratitude that have lasting benefits on health and wellbeing:
- Keep a gratitude journal: write down 5 things at the end of each week that you are grateful for. Take some time to write not just about the item, but specifically who was involved and what happened.
- If you are not into writing in a journal, just counting your blessings can keep gratitude front of mind.
- Try a gratitude letter. Write a letter to someone who you are grateful for and why. Better yet, read the letter to them in person or over the phone. If that person is deceased, share the letter with a friend or loved one who may have known that person.
As Dr. Fredrickson notes in her book, “gratitude comes when we appreciate something that has come our way as a gift to be treasured (p.41). Having trouble thinking of something/someone? Begin with a list of all of the things/people that you take for granted that may be indeed that hidden treasure. Choose one or two items and take note of who/what it is that you may be overlooking. If you’re writing it down, turn the paper over and jot down how they/it impacts you in a positive way.
Here’s an example that has really made a positive difference in my own life:
Recently, I was getting weary of my daily commute and I had a choice. Each morning I could continue to wonder how loud the noisy bus bins above my head would be or if I would have to sit in an aisle seat where I’d have endure people jostling in the aisle during my ride. Or, I can do what I did this Monday morning; I took a moment before I boarded the bus to be grateful for New Jersey Mass Transit and for the bus drivers who show up to take me to work. I took this a step further and noted my gratitude for the job I have in New York City where I get to make a difference in someone’s life every day and one that has expanded my career in new and exciting ways. I’m not saying to spread every thing that bogs us down with peanut butter sunshine, but I am saying it helps to shine the light the on the things/people/situations that enable us to lead a life in a more positive way.
Once again, please feel free to share your experience, thoughts, and comments with me here! Next week: Positivity Practice #3: Serenity.