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Last October, I wrote about Goals & Gratitude (click here to read) as every so often (way too infrequently) I like to reflect on what I am grateful for – put everything in perspective, if you will. A nice exercise to preform but I could not be accused of having any sort of a habit around gratitude. My list would tend to be quite broad and I probably don’t get specific enough. Well recently, I got a fantastic introduction into the practice of gratitude from a pal of mine Karen, aka author of My Gratitude Attitude Journal.
Karen came to the world of gratitude and training yourself to be happy after a pretty rough few years including an MS diagnosis at 31. You can listen to Karen’s story here (soundcloud link)
I actually got to know Karen about 3 years ago, when we worked together for a spell. During this time, she was in the throws of MS and although she speaks of such a dark time she really has an inherent ability to look on the sunny side of life, or so it seemed. Despite appearances, she was really struggling, but she made the decision to work at being happier. She chose the daily practice of gratitude to help her get there. A bit like going to the gym or running, it only works if you are consistent. It is also best done in the morning, which makes sense in a, ‘set you up for the day’ way. Above all, it’s ridiculously simple, write down the three things you are grateful for that day. These can be big ticket items like your health or as Karen’s six year old so brilliantly put it, it could be unicorns and shoes you are grateful for! The point is to stop and reflect for a minute before the 1000 demands of the day kick in.
I have never really done anything like this, with consistency, before but I think to step away from my inner Eeyore can’t be a bad thing. Karen has really inspired me. She believes, the more you write down what you are grateful for, the more you feel truly grateful and in turn happier, more fulfilled and you see how privileged your life is. So here goes, I have the diary, I even have a new pen, and I am good to go. It might not be for everyone, but in a time when our mental health seems more at risk than ever, who wouldn’t like to try and be a bit happier!
by Ciara Conlon, Author of ‘Productivity for Dummies’
I was inspired to write today about gratitude, as a result of meeting a wonderful lady called Karen Dwyer. Yesterday I attended the launch of Karen’s Gratitude journal. Karen created this journal to encourage people to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Karen believes that her miraculous recovery from M.S. is partly down to her daily practice of gratitude. Karen took full responsibility for her health when she decided the medication she was on was having a more negative impact on her life than the M.S. itself. As a result she made some changes to her life which included the introduction of a daily gratitude practice.
What about you? Is gratitude something you do on a regular basis? Do you look at your life and feel grateful for what you have or do you feel more like a victim, are you often frustrated, unhappy or disappointed with yourself and your life?
In recent years many studies have been carried out on gratitude and its impact on our happiness and well being. It seems apparent that it is difficult to feel sorry for yourself or feel down if you are actually feeling thankful for something that you have in your life.
In one study done by Dr Robert A. Emmons from the University of California and Dr Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami they asked participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group had to write down what they were grateful for during the week and the second group wrote about daily irritations. A third group wrote about events that had affected them with neither focusing on positive or negative events. After ten weeks of this practise those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. This group also started to exercise more and visited the doctor less.
Dr Martin Seligman a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, widely known as
father of positive psychology included gratitude in one of his studies on positive psychology interventions. A group of people’s week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
In Karen’s case a couple of minutes a day contributed to her turning her life around.
She suggests a morning practice upon waking. Practicing gratitude at this time of the day can help to increase your mood right throughout the day.
I started to practise gratitude a couple of years ago and I noticed a big shift in the way that I felt. Bad days weren’t so bad when I remembered to be thankful. But I didn’t’ have a practice of gratitude. There are times in life that feeling grateful feels natural, your wedding day, the birth of a child or perhaps a good deed that creates a nice sense of well being, but feeling gratitude when things are not so perfect, when you are experiencing the hum drum of life isn’t such an easy thing. This is why having a daily practise can be so much more powerful, doing it every morning will keep it fresh in your mind and encourage you to do it right throughout the day. This is something we could all do with our children, at breakfast or at dinner ask them what they are grateful for or check out this article for 16 more ways you can encourage your child to be grateful
What to do?
Create a habit of gratitude, you can get one of Karen’s journals here but this also can be done in a simple notebook. Write down a list of the things you are grateful for. Your sight, your strength, your family and friends not forgetting the things we often take for granted like our freedom to choose what we want. The feeling of the sun’s rays on your skin or the privilege to breathe fresh air. A squirrel, a bird, a flower all the simple things that can bring us joy. Be thankful for the heating that turns on simply by pressing a button or the light that allows us to read into the night.
Today I am grateful for my niece who brought me my favourite flowers for my new house, I am grateful for the seat I got on the train on the way to work and I am grateful that my battery lasted until I finished writing this post! I am also grateful for you, my reader who has taken the time to read this post and I wish you more happiness through the act of gratitude.
The more you practise the habit of writing down the things you are grateful for you will find yourself noticing more good things during the day, you will begin to notice how lucky and privileged your are and how a lot of your problems are insignificant in the bigger picture of life. There are many ways you can practice gratitude throughout the day, mindfulness, small acts of recognition and kindness, or check out some more habits of grateful people from the Huffington Post
Being grateful will change your life and touch the lives of those around you and the fantastic thing about this new habit, it will only take you a couple of minutes each day.
So go ahead and pick up your copy of MyGratitudeAttitudejournal.com and start to give thanks for all that is good.