Lately there has been a lot of talk about “leaning in”. Today I am thinking about gratitude and how we at The Learning Oasis are leaning in to practice gratitude on a daily basis. We are so blessed to work in a positive and supportive environment and are grateful for many things. I know practicing gratitude feels good, but are there any other benefits to the regular practice of gratitude?
As it turns out there’s a whole host of reasons why we should make gratitude a daily practice — research has shown that being thankful confers a whole host of health benefits, from improved immune systems, to feelings of connectedness, even higher team morale.
“Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished,” said Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, . “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.”
Is there a formal way to practice gratitude to gain the most benefit? The word on the street is to keep a gratitude journal. Here are some 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 suggests 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,
- 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.
I think I’ll take a stab at getting into a gratitude routine. Even if gratefulness has benefits in the short-term, it still raises more long-term questions. What are the major obstacles to living a grateful life? Can gratefulness really increase happiness over a lifetime? Finally, how exactly can gratefulness be increased? I guess those answers will come in time. Forever curious, I guess!
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