In the world of positive psychology, gratitude is clearly the best route to happiness. Many research studies have shown the direct correlation between gratitude and our sense of well being and over all life satisfaction. Translated into something more concrete, people who live with more gratitude have fewer stress related illnesses (including lower blood pressure), enjoy more satisfying relationships and greater connection to their community, and have overall more positive emotions which can add up to 7 extra years to life. With Thanksgiving around the corner, this is an opportune time for cultivating more gratitude in our own lives.
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, and others, have identified key practices that have been shown to significantly increase our sense of gratitude and overall happiness. Two powerful exercises include:
1⃣ The Gratitude Letter. Think of someone alive who did something wonderful for you and you have not properly thanked. Write them a letter and describe in detail what they did for you, how that affected you and why you are so grateful. Mention that you think of them and what you are doing now due to their help. Then, if possible, visit the person and read the letter directly to them. If that is not possible, you can read it via Skype, FaceTime or telephone. This has been shown to boost happiness for months after the visit.
2⃣ The Three Blessings. Every night for the next week, before going to bed, write down three things that went well during the day. Write down what happened and why. See how you feel a week from now. Keep this up at least three times a week and chances are, you will see a significant change in your mental outlook.
As the holidays approach, it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out with tasks and to-do lists. With the current world events, it is easy to fall into fear, panic and pessimism. Staying in those feelings can block us from experiencing gratitude for all we do have at this moment in our own lives. What can you do to stay connected to gratitude? Try one of the exercises above, or create your own rituals to enhance this life affirming feeling. I wish you all good health, peace and a very Happy Thanksgiving!