Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.
I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.
1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.
2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.
3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”
Why is it important?
The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.
1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.
2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A study found that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.
3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.
4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.
5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.
4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.
5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.
We all know the importance of exercise for our overall health and well-being.
We log miles on the road or treadmill, spend time in the gym on a stationary bike spinning to music, dancing in a Zumba class to a desired sweat level or lifting weights for strength and improved bone density. We track our aerobic activity to increase our cardiac capacity and endurance. We choose healthy foods to limit our saturated fat, caffeine and alcohol consumption.
We are proud to talk about our workout routines or beloved sports with others, sharing our stories and maybe picking up a few pointers.
Our physical health requires attention and work. But what about our mind? What do we do on a regular basis to bring health and well-being to the area above our neck? Do we have a mental practice to build our mind’s endurance and resilience? Hmm, why not? Why do we assume our mental health is a given state of wellness…a state we don’t have to work towards maintaining or improving?
I think the answer lies in our assumption that our thought patterns, perceptions and feelings occur naturally… We are born an optimist or a pessimist, pragmatic or emotional, anxious or calm, a worrier or a planner, happy or sad. And research supports that some of this is true.
Genetics do play a part in our happiness… actually, 50%. In The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonya Lyubomirsky describes this 50% as our ‘set point.’
However, the remaining factors are in our control, assuming all our basic needs are met— food, shelter and safety. This is good news! About 40% of our happiness and well-being is a result of how we handle ourselves day to day, our intentional activity.
The remaining 10% is determined by our circumstances—where we live, our careers, financial security, etc. Think about this for a moment: 40% of our feelings of happiness are within our control by the choices
we make moment by moment throughout our days. Doesn't it then make sense to learn behaviors proven to positively impact our mood and happiness? Yes!
So let's look at a few good choices.
1. Recall Three Good Things. Each evening as you are winding down, bring to mind three things that went well during your day with a bit of detail as your remember them, including how you felt in the moment. They do not have to be major events or important moments. A good thing may be as simple as remembering your delicious cup of coffee, the gentle morning kiss from your partner, the warmth of the sun on your face as you left the house, or a phone call from your best friend. Recalling and savoring such highlights brings back those moments and the positive feelings of well-being that go along with them, reminding you that even if there were some stressful moments there were also many good ones.
2. Take a Savoring Walk. Walk outside for twenty minutes with a focus to notice your surroundings. Observe the sights, sounds and smells around you—notice the gentle wind, the vibrant hue of autumn maple leaves, and the architectural details of the buildings you walk past. Take time to absorb these details with all your senses. In a study done at Loyola University Chicago, participants who took Savoring Walks daily for a week reported greater increases in happiness than participants who went for walks as usual.
“Making a conscious effort to notice and explicitly acknowledge the various sources of joy around us can make us happier,” write Bryant and Joseph Veroff in the book Savoring.
3. Take a Mindful Pause. This is a helpful action to take when our patience is tested or we are having a challenging moment… when we can't see any good in the moment, can't seem to calm our nerves, or slow our heart rate... when things are heading south. The Mindful Pause is a simple way to give us space: stop, take three slow breaths, and then mindfully proceed from this place of ‘reset.’ Taking slow deliberate breaths has an immediate, positive impact on our mind and body; a calmer state allows us to choose our response. In his book Man's Search for Meaning, neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wisely described it this way:
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.";
These three suggested behaviors could be first steps towards creating happier moments for us, helping our minds find ways to hold onto the positive. When we consciously look for the good, savor the good and choose to be mindful in our actions we are creating a happier life, moment by moment.
Minding our minds, just as we deliberately tend to our bodies, is a habit that builds our happiness muscles. Well worth it!
Learn Three Self-Coaching Questions to Get Started
Are you tired of your same old story?
Are you bored with life?
Are you ready to make this year better than you can ever imagine?
Let’s get started!
This year, challenge yourself by asking questions that will make 2018 the best year of your life.
Before you start asking yourself these questions, it’s important to understand why asking the
right questions is really important. Basically, the questions you ask create your reality. It can
help you shift from one state to another within minutes. It’s true!
The mind is obedient and intelligent. It’s programmed to answers questions. For example, when
you ask the question, “What else can go wrong now?”, your mind will find anything that answers
that question. We’ve all asked this question before and regretted asking it by the end of the day,
right? On the other hand, when you ask, “What went well?” your mind will look for all that went
well to answer your question. This question is an energy booster and will make you feel good.
Here are the three self-coaching questions you can ask yourself to help you stay true to your
goals. Read them over once, then go back and take the time to answer questions from your heart.
1. AM I HAPPY?
According to Bronnie Ware’s work on the top regrets of the dying, the fifth regret was not
allowing oneself to be happier. According to the research, we all have a happiness set point.
Some have more than others based on genetics and life circumstance. However, it’s important to
know that you can cultivate more happiness from your intentions and actions. Happiness is not
only a choice, it is also a skill that can be learned. While some people are born with more
happiness genes than others, it is possible to become happier regardless of what is going on in
Am I happy?
If your answer is “yes,” congratulations. Keep on doing what you are doing. Shine on!
If your answer is “no,” move on to the next question.
2. WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY?
Happiness is a positive emotion that raises your vibrational energy and makes you more
attractive. Doing something that makes you happy, no matter how small it is, is enough to
positively influence all areas of your life. Just as negative emotions such as sadness or anger can
impact all areas of your life, happiness can do that too.
If you are not convinced, think of someone in your life that is genuine happy. Do you like being
around that person? Do they seem charismatic and somehow attract people to them?
Ask yourself, what makes you happy and then go on to the next question.
3. WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT I CAN DO TODAY TO BE HAPPIER?
It can be daunting to all of sudden make major changes in your life even for the better. The best
and only way to start creating positive habits is by taking small and consistent actions every day.
The more you mindfully take small actions by chunking down your goals, the more they will
seem doable. Ask yourself, what is the one small thing that you can do today to be happier. Once
you determine what it is, do it right away before your logical mind start talking you out of it.
Once you take action. Notice how you feel. The more you recognize the difference in how you
feel the more you will want to do it. Give yourself permission to have fun.
I hope these three self-coaching questions will help you add more adventure and abundance to
your life. Ask these questions daily. The more you work with these questions, the more you can
live with no regrets. Print out a copy of these questions and keep them close by. The more you
ask these questions, the more they will help you create the best year of your life.
If you haven’t yet, gotten a copy of my book, The Happiness Result - More time, More health, More love, More success, click here to get your copy.