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As we enter the holiday season at the end of 2019, we are ending a decade and beginning the next. I invite everyone to consider what they have accomplished during this decade. Who and what are you most grateful for?
According to Psychology Today, we know that gratitude boosts our mental and physical health, boosts empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves self-esteem, and boosts mental health. The best part about gratitude is you can do it any place, any time, with no special training.
Beyond periodic moments of gratitude, I encourage my clients to develop a regular gratitude practice. This can take many forms ranging from setting a time to reflect, talking to others about what we are grateful for to writing a journal about what brings you joy, what you have overcome, or the small things you appreciate. The benefit of a practice is it becomes part of your routine or habit. It is the regular practice of gratitude that creates long lasting impact. Over time I have maintained a gratitude journal. It is a practice I have come to value greatly and with changing life circumstances, I ebb and flow in my commitment. With this post, I am recommitting to rekindle this practice starting the week of Thanksgiving 2019 by writing 1 journal entry per week. I am very fortunate to have a partner who has mastered the practice of gratitude and we communicate our gratitude for parts of our lives multiple times each day.
I subscribe to gratefulness.org. They send SHORT daily gratitude messages that take less than 30 seconds to read and for me, they serve as a nice reminder to reset. I am also building the mental habit of taking time to be grateful for what is working well when I run into challenges. It is easy to be grateful sitting at home while drinking a cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning. It can be much harder to be grateful after something goes wrong during the day. Yet, it is the difficult moments when we most benefit from shifting away from the problem to what is working. An important benefit of gratitude is that it releases hormones into the body that build resilience that serve as the antidote for the stress and anxiety that happen during the course of a normal day.
Tips for Keeping A Gratitude Journal from gratefulness.org.
Robert Emmons, arguably the world’s leading expert on the science of gratitude, and an author of some of the seminal studies of gratitude journals, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from keeping a gratitude journal:
- Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
- Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
- Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
Learn more at “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal,” by Jason Marsh, at the Greater Good Science Center. This excerpt is from an article that originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. For more, visit greatergood.berkeley.edu.
The Innovative Leadership Institute wishes you a happy and resilient Thanksgiving holiday and joyful end of 2019!
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About the Author
Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.