Gratitude has been a big theme in my professional and personal life in the last week. I managed to send some thank you notes (finally) last week and was happy with that. But then the book I am reading delved into the importance of gratitude in changing moods. Today, I opened my email to find that one of my favorite bloggers is also talking about gratitude. Even my freakin’ weekly horoscope is telling me to practice kind and unselfish deeds.
So. I guess it’s time to talk about gratitude.
If you didn’t know this already, expressing gratitude is one of the most effective antidotes to depression. It can make you happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Turns out the old adage: “It is better to give than to receive” is actually true. Giving thanks is kinda like a double bonus.
One thing I’d like to make clear, however, is that I'm talking about letting people know when they have made an impact on you and thanking them for it, or simply acknowledging to yourself what you have to be thankful for. It is also true that giving can be a type of gratitude, but I am NOT talking about giving that requires a sacrifice on your part or about being a martyr.
Rather than regurgitate what others have said, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned recently from some very smart people who know about gratitude. Go ahead and try one of these activities and see what happens!
The Gratitude Activity
I learned about this activity from three different sources, all of which are worthy of checking out. The claim is that if you do this activity, a month from now you will be in a better mood. Who doesn’t want that?
First, here is a youtube video called The Science of Happiness that shows people actually doing the activity.
Second is a TED Talk with Martin Seligman, esteemed psychologist, author and professor who has studied and written extensively about the pursuit of happiness.
Seligman’s most recent book, Flourish, provides a number of activities for cultivating well-being and happiness, including a version of the gratitude activity.
This activity also comes from Seligman’s book, Flourish. In a nutshell, here’s what you do. Every night before going to bed, write down three things that went well and why. It’s important to include the “why.” As a professor at Penn, Seligman has assigned this activity to many students and while it can feel awkward at first, he states, “The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”
Gratitude Is More Than a Rote Thank You Note
If you're already in the habit of expressing gratitude but feel like something is missing, Hannah May Marshall addresses some of the nuances of gratitude in her blog this week, 5 Tips for a Powerful Gratitude Practice. She encourages us to do more than go through the motions of expressing gratitude. If you've ever written an obligatory thank you note, check out her post.
On a personal note, I want to extend a special thank you to the people who signed up to take my first-ever workshop. I also want to thank my family for their endless support that comes in a variety of ways. My cup runneth over with abundance.
Did you try any of these tips? Let me know in the comments below.