Happier for Having Kept It
For over three years, I have kept a gratitude journal at the suggestion of my business coach, Christine Kane. Several researchers have found profound affect on emotional, psychological, and physical well-being associated with being grateful for all the wonderful things that come into our lives -- big and small. It enhances our social networks, personal relationships, and our careers. It enhances happiness overall. I've noticed it helps me shift from being self-oriented to other-orientated,
The Harvard Medical School's Health Publications blog defines gratitude and then suggests ways we can cultivate it. Note that the author suggests keeping a gratitude journal.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
I live in a part of the world in which life focuses on the Christine religion and church families. One person I know always responds "blessed" when I ask her how she is doing. Each time I get that response, I know she is a person living a life of gratitude.
My journal has two other components. I also capture any "gains" I have made for the day. Today, for instance, I might record that I finished my post-trip laundry, blogged again, cleaned up several rooms in the house, and created a project list I want to conquer over the next three weeks. I also finished reading a chapter in a book on hydrofracking for a course I am teaching in January.
Finally, I record any gifts I've given that day. Again, the happiness research shows that gift-giving enhances our sense of well-being. I try to give a gift a day. For that practice, the book -- 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker -- inspired me.