“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” - Brian Tracy
I personally love this time of year! The beginning of the year gives us the clean slate to define how we want the next 12 months to go. On the other hand, some people struggle during the winter. The days are shorter and our “to do” list just keeps getting longer.
No matter where you are in life right now, we all could use some tools to help decrease our stress and increase our joy!
One of these tools is learning how to express gratitude!
How do we do this? Let’s first look at why expressing gratitude is so important.
Researchers, Emmons and McCullough, performed a study in 2003 in which they asked participants to either write a journal of gratitude, a journal of things that bother them, or just to journal about their week. Their experiment demonstrated that the subjects who wrote in a gratitude journal experienced less physical ailments and spent more time exercising compared to the other two groups. Additionally, they felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic.[i]
Robert Emmons, the lead researcher, is well known for his work in gratitude. He gives some examples of ways to cultivate gratitude in this short video:
His video recommends 3 different options:
1. Writing in a gratitude journal either daily or weekly. There are several options on Amazon.com which is where I bought mine. Some options give you daily prompts of things to consider. This can be a helpful way to start writing.
2. Setting aside a time either daily or weekly where you can take 2-3 minutes to count your blessings. Some people like to write them down and some people prefer to take a minute or two just to think about them. Try both and see what works best for you. Options include doing this first thing in the morning prior to getting out of bed or while in the shower to fit it into our busy lives.
3. Wearing a bracelet or other token to remind you to practice gratitude during the day.
As with everything, it’ll take time for gratitude to become a habit in your life. Which practice works best for you? Feel free to email me any questions or comments you might have. Thank you!
Mara Towne PT, DPT
Emmons R, McCullough M. Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well- Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003;84(2):377-389.