Gratitude

I posted last week about the possibility that many people could be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Those of us who are paying attention are more than likely to be stressed or unhappy.

I also mentioned some possible remedies to pursue.  Let’s add something else to your arsenal; gratitude.

I have been reading a book about gratitude.  It’s probably not the best book on the subject, but it was enough to make me sit back and think a bit about the wisdom of keeping a gratitude journal.

Listen up, men; this is for you, too. It’s just not a girlie thing, even though it sounds girlie.   It sounds really super-duper girlie when you start flinging around words like “journal.”  Girls, you may keep a journal, and you guys can just keep a notebook.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude in North America.

Emmons even wrote a book about gratitude based on many years of scientific study.

Emmons’ research indicates that gratitude is not merely a positive emotion; it also improves your health if cultivated. People must give up a “victim mentality” and overcome a sense of entitlement and deservedness.

As a result, he says, they will experience significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis. source

Gratitude simply means being thankful, or expressing thanks for things or events.

For instance: We have a cat.  She acts like a cat.  Like most cats, she is always on the wrong side of the door. It can be annoying to constantly have to open the door for her to come in or go out.  So instead of being annoyed, I decided to be thankful that she has embraced her “catness.”   I’m doubly grateful that she doesn’t feel like she’s a dog trapped in a cat body and demanding expensive species reassignment surgery.

Gratitude is about noticing things.  How many of you men reading this really notice your magic underwear drawer?  You know, the one that always seems to be filled up with clean folded undies?  Do you ever stop and ask yourself how they got there, and do you thank the person who was behind all that magic?

Dr. Emmons says that your gratitude journal doesn’t have to be fancy.  He’s a guy. What the hell does he know?  Ladies, feel free to unleash your inner crafter if you want, and make a dazzling journal.   Guys, go buy a notebook.

I had planned on writing down a few things each night for which I was grateful.  But according to Emmons, that’s the wrong approach.

Here’s some research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal:

  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggest 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.”

Need more proof?

If you’re anything like me and want to research something to death, here’s a link to a gazillion articles  in Psychology Today on gratitude.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me.  I have to let the cat out.

 

Adrienne is grateful to blog at Adrienne’s Corner. Some day she plans to come out of her corner and join the real world.