I started dabbling in learning about gratitude when I first started uni about 6 years ago. I then did a research project on it while I was at uni and wrote a thesis of 12,000 words on the topic! Since then, it has always been on my agenda. So I guess you could say gratitude and I are pretty serious now.
I wish I had known about how it makes me feel a long time ago. When I notice negative thoughts (that pain in the ass Debbie Downer we spoke about earlier in ‘what feeds my optimism) come into my head, I can chose to change those thoughts to a grateful one instead. I can replace a negative thought with a grateful one. I am grateful that I have dishes to wash, it means I have food. I am grateful to make my bed, it means I have a bed etc. Sometimes when Debbie is right up in my grill, it might take a whole day of practicing gratitude before I feel better. But the point is, I know how, and I know that it works.
But enough with the chit chat. These are the proven benefits researchers say has on practicing gratitude:
- It leads to increasing levels of optimism and other positive emotions, which will eventually help you live a longer and happier life.
- The positive emotion of gratitude cancels out negative emotions
- Grateful people sleep better
- Grateful people tend to exercise more than those who don’t practice gratitude
- Gratitude is an immune booster
Enough about why, I want to know how
As well as kicking Debbie Downer out of my head, I also like to write down at the end of each day the things that I am grateful for. You could start by writing down just three, and be specific about it. For example, instead of ‘I am grateful for my friend, Amy’ try, ‘I am grateful for my friend Amy because she is a good listener and made me feel heard when I told her about (insert problem here)’. Sure, you might be grateful for a high test score that you worked hard for, but you could write about simply being grateful for a piece of cake that you ate that day (mmm… cake).
I also like to ask people I interact with ‘what went well’. It’s a great conversation starter and a clever way to shift our focus from Debbie to our much happier selves.
Gratitude notes are also fun to write. If someone makes me feel good, I let them know about it. For example, one of my students came up to me to thank me for the hard work I put into writing him lots of feedback on an assignment he submitted. It lit me up and I felt good for a long time after it happened. So I let him know about it. I wrote him a note expressing my gratitude and not only did it light me up doing so, it spread my happy feeling and made him feel good, too.
So, what can you do today to show your gratitude?