SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF HAPPINESS: GRATITUDE
Do you speak the language of happiness?
I have heard a saying, that if you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. There are studies that indicate happiness and gratitude may operate in a “cycle of virtue” whereby gratitude enhances happiness, but happiness enhances gratitude as well, in an “upward spiral”.
I believe one of the most life enhancing things we can do is to be grateful for the blessings we have. Gratitude opens the door for more abundance and miracles to flow your way. It has even been said that one of the prerequisites in manifesting abundance in one’s life, is to recognize and be grateful for the blessings in your current life situation.
A sure way to bring about more happy places is to recognize and appreciate what you already have. If you can’t do this, how do you expect to know when you receive more things to be happy about?
Gratitude is a powerful emotion.
Studies have shown there are many benefits to expressing gratitude. Whether by keeping a daily journal of things you are grateful for, making a bullet list, or expressing your thanks verbally, the very act of expressing gratitude is associated with improved physical, psychological and social benefits.
Some of the things research tells us about the importance of being grateful are:
A. Grateful people are happy people.
Studies have shown grateful individuals tend to be happy, well-adjusted individuals, and that grateful thinking improves mood.
B. Gratitude is an important trait.
In a recent study of over 800 descriptive trait words, “grateful” was rated in the top four percent in terms of likeability (Dumas, Johnson, & Lynch, 2002). Conversely, “ungrateful” was rated as one of the most negative traits (in the bottom 1.75%).
C. Grateful individuals have at least four characteristics in common:
- A sense of abundance – Grateful individuals do not feel that they have been deprived in life.
- An appreciation of simple pleasures – Grateful individuals appreciate the common everyday pleasures of life that are readily available to most people.
- An appreciation of the contribution of others to their well-being. – Grateful individuals still take appropriate credit for their successes, but are quick to acknowledge how others have contributed to their well-being.
- They acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude.
This is according to the results of a series of experiments performed by Watkins, Woodward, Stone and Kolts at Eastern Washington University to evaluate the relationship of gratitude to subjective well-being. The study provided evidence of strong positive relationships between gratitude and various happiness measures and also showed that gratitude was inversely related to unpleasant states like depression and narcissism.
Benefits of keeping a gratitude journal
Some of benefits you can experience by keeping a daily gratitude journal include:
- a feeling of calm, contentment, and ability to live in the moment,
- a more positive attitude,
- an appreciation of the little things that others do for you, or to make your life easier that you normally took for granted,
- mindfulness and ability to focus on the things that are truly important in your life,
- the ability to respond to stressful situations in a positive manner because you will have more awareness of what really matters and what doesn’t,
- increased self-esteem by recognizing your strengths and accomplishments,
- the realization you don’t have to compare yourself to others, only to yourself, to be the best person you can be, and
- an overall happier disposition.
“G” day instead of “D” day
I’ll give you a good example of how keeping a gratitude journal has impacted me. I used to dread housecleaning day. I called it “D” day – Dreaded day. There were so many fun things on my list to do. Spending my day in what I considered the thankless, routine of housecleaning was not on that list.
As I began to journal the things I was grateful for, my attitude about housecleaning day began to change. I saw it in a new light. Housecleaning day became “G” day – Gratitude day. I began to realize how much I appreciated that I had dirty dishes to wash (it meant we had food to eat), a house to clean (we had a home to live in), clothes to wash (we had clothing to wear), a yard to maintain — the list is long. If we didn’t have these things, then I certainly wouldn’t have to maintain them. Would I be more happy then? I think not.
As a side effect, I also realized where I could reduce or eliminate the “chronic clutter” that wasn’t contributing to my happiness. I became more organized, and housecleaning didn’t take as long. I became more mindful about the joy of housecleaning (yes, the JOY) and the positive feeling I get when I open the windows and turn up the “music to house clean by”. Imagine that!
Day One – Not One Day: Start Your Gratitude Journal Today.
Similar to the findings that writing down goals increases the possibility of reaching them, there are many studies supporting the practice of journaling your gratitude to increase your happiness.
Studies performed by Emmons and McCullough in 2003 showed a weekly benefit listing is associated with more positive and optimistic appraisals of one’s life, more time spent exercising, and fewer reported physical symptoms. Additionally, self-guided daily gratitude exercises are associated with higher levels of positive affects.
Keeping a gratitude journal is so easy. You don’t need a fancy template or designer notebook. A spiral notebook will do fine. This is for your eyes only. It can be a ‘page-a-day’ or a bullet list journal.
What to Journal:
Gratitude journaling focuses on things you are grateful for. It is solely dedicated to recording the positive things in your life. Keep the negative out of it.
You can write as much as you want but each day write at least one thing about your life you are grateful for. It could be as simple as, “I am thankful for my good health.” “I am thankful the rain held off until after the game.” It’s OK to draw pictures and repeat things too.
When to Journal:
The ‘right time’ to write is the time you choose. Keeping your journal by your bed is a good practice, as it will remind you to write in it first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Start with the basics.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Think about your family, children, friends and other relatives. What positive impact do they have in your life?
- What has someone done for you recently? It can be something small like fixing you a sandwich, or a cup of coffee. Did you say thank you?
- Make note of the “telegrams from heaven”, those devastating events and moments you experienced and they turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
- What are your special skills, talents and superpowers? Everyone has them. You may not think yours are significant, but once you start writing them down you will realize how much you offer this world.
- Reflect on difficult situations you were able to resolve or handle effectively.
- What are the positive aspects of your close relationships? What attracted or guided you to these individuals?
- Who has helped you overcome and obstacle or reach a goal?
- What music, hobbies, and sports to you enjoy?
- What material things are you thankful for?
- Did you have a recent learning experience?
- Consider career aspects – pay raise, co-workers, benefits, environment, location, etc.
- Even consider those who have wronged you. You can always be thankful to them for making you a stronger person, or for the bad example they set and lessons learned from the experience.
To wrap things up, remember it takes about 30 days to establish a new habit. Don’t feel stressed if you miss a day, but try to be consistent. HAPPY JOURNALING!