One block at a time
Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation. — Arianna Huffington, Thrive.
There’s so much power and pleasure in the feeling of gratitude. Appreciation for something — or someone — fuels a positive mental attitude and has been scientifically proven to increase happiness and joy in our lives.
From Oprah to Tim Ferriss to Arianna Huffington to Emma Watson, these four successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and celebrities have the art of practicing gratitude in common.
Be grateful. Focus on joy.
Tim Ferriss says,
“It’s easy to obsess over pushing the ball forward as a type-A personality, which leads to being constantly future-focused. If anxiety is a focus on the future, practicing appreciation, even for 2 to 3 minutes, is counter-balancing medicine.”
A gratitude journal is simply writing down the positive events in your life at the end of the day. Establishing a daily practice in which you express gratitude for things in your life you appreciate — gifts of peace, grace, people, good things — gives you an overall feeling of happiness, which permeates your life.
You can make a list or write in more detailed expressions about each positive event. Write what you are thankful for.
Oprah was the first person I heard talk about the benefits of a gratitude journal. Oprah has kept a gratitude journal for a full two decades and speaks of the gifts and the power of gratitude often.
She makes daily gratitude a priority saying,
“I go through the day looking for things to be grateful for, and something always shows up.”
I bet it’s pretty easy to find things to be grateful for when you are Oprah,
but we mere mortals can benefit from this practice also.
Nearly every successful person I have read about includes gratitude in their lives.
Emma Watson speaks of her gratitude practice saying,
“I love the idea of starting my day by listing three things I’m grateful for and going to bed thinking about the three amazing things that happened in the day. I’m a big believer in the transformative practice of gratitude.”
Robert Emmons of Greater Good Magazine says gratitude may seem like a simple emotion, but he argues that appreciation inspires kindness, connection, and transformative life changes.
Emmons’s research partnership with Michael McCullough at the University of Miami has led to several significant findings about gratitude,
“We’ve discovered scientific proof that when people regularly work on cultivating gratitude, they experience a variety of measurable benefits: psychological, physical, and social. In some cases, people have reported that gratitude led to transformative life changes.”
In one study, Emmons and McCullough asked participants to keep a gratitude journal every day for two weeks. Those who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling “more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined, and strong.”
Better sleep, Increased general feeling of happiness, Boosted immune system, Lower stress levels, A greater sense of calmIncreased self-awareness. By focusing on what you are grateful for, you become more clear on what is working and what you want more of in life — you start to focus on those things.
All it takes is 15 minutes a day. Apps like Inner Peace which is built on Blockstack platform help you fight the inertia of journaling by using technology and helps you feel secure by keeping it completely decentralized and private. Studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week might have a more significant impact on our happiness than journaling every day.
This is far more manageable than once a day, but if you want to write once a day, do that.
The entries don’t have to be long or deep; they can be brief, mundane, and only a single sentence. For example, “my body felt good on my run” or “my health” or “the new book I just finished.”
Studies have shown that you get more significant benefits when elaborating in detail about what you appreciate more than writing a brief list.
It’s more important to keep a gratitude practice and making it as simple as possible, so the thought of not having enough time to write for more than 15 minutes doesn’t stop you from maintaining a gratitude journal at all.
Write down as many things you can think of. It is your journal; you can write one or 20 good things. Some people recommend choosing five things to write about every day, but really, it can be more or less. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful rather than things has a greater positive impact.
Although, again, keeping a gratitude journal is personal, and there is no one “right” way to do it. Choose any time of day to write in your journal. Some keep a journal right on their nightstand and write what they are grateful for right before bed. Writing in the evening gives you a chance to reflect on the day and can serve as a nightly ritual. Writing before bed is a great way to quiet your mind. Write regularly, whether that is in the morning or at night, make it a routine, and honor that commitment.
The goal of journaling is to remember the good things — a person, an experience, an event — and then relish in the good feelings as you are writing about them. See these things as “gifts.” When you view them as gifts, you are less likely to take them for granted.
When you choose to focus on the positive things happening in your life,
instead of the negative stuff, you will attract more good things to you,
and bring in more happiness.
Gratitude and joy are strongly correlated — the research bears this out.
Gratitude moves people to experience more positive emotions. When we focus on what we are grateful for, it reminds us that life is indeed good.
Intentional activity — writing in a gratitude journal — accounts for
about 40% of our happiness, according to PositivePsychology.com.
Intentional activities are things we set out to do that increase our well-being and our happiness.
By maintaining a gratitude journal, we further focus on intentional action by reflecting on those positive things that happened to us throughout
the day, which increases our joy.
With the holidays quickly approaching, appreciate the many gifts — like
family and friends — and include them in your gratitude journal.