The Happiness Class: Gratitude
People who keep gratitude journals for just three weeks have reported a host of benefits including longer and more refreshing sleep, higher levels of positive emotions, more alertness, more joy and pleasure, more generous, forgiving and compassionate behaviours and of even feeling less lonely and isolated.
What Is It?
We teach children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as early as ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ but this familiar practice has a much more important role than simple courtesy. Research shows that gratitude increases happiness and resilience; boosts our mood; raises our self esteem and even gives us more energy. If that wasn’t impressive enough, it has even been credited with raising attainment in schools. When we adjust our focus to gratitude, we begin to perceive situations differently and can identify gifts and benefits we may have taken for granted. In confirming the good things we are surrounded by, we begin to look outside of ourselves and start to acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—have given us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.
What Are The Benefits?
When we engage in this practice, science shows that we are likely to feel less stressed, envious and negative. Dr Jessamy Hibberd, clinical psychologist, says that those who practice gratitude ‘find that relationships are easier to build and sustain, as you become more appreciative of others.’ She goes on to explain that there is an increase of more than 10% in long term well being, equal to that of receiving double your income. Gratitude practices often seem simple yet the results are overwhelming. People who keep gratitude journals for just three weeks have reported a host of benefits including longer and more refreshing sleep, higher levels of positive emotions, more alertness, more joy and pleasure, more generous, forgiving and compassionate behaviours and of even feeling less lonely and isolated.
How Do I Do It?
Perhaps the best thing about gratitude is how easy it is to do. By writing down or thinking about what you’re grateful for, you force yourself to think about the good things already in your life, rather than dwelling on what you don’t yet have or are longing for. When you’re feeling grateful, you’re better at being grateful, so it’s a practice that grows the more you do it. Simply start by thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. You don't have to sit in silence for an hour or walk to the highest mountain. You don’t even need a pen or paper to start, just visualise three things you are happy about as you drift off to sleep. If you want to develop the practice, a gratitude jar and pack of post-it notes is an easy place to record things as they happen.
To develop this, start a gratitude journal, simply spend 5 minutes a day reflecting on the things you already have in your life. Free flow writing is the easiest form to do this in, no grammatically correct sentences needed, just a stream of consciousness from your mind to the paper. This will help you recognise everyday occurrences that bring you joy and incite gratitude. Immerse yourself in good events that have already happened in simple, specific daily encounters, e.g. ‘I’m grateful for my sister who shared with me,’ or ‘the cake I ate at lunchtime was delicious.’ Before you know it you’ll be reaping the benefits.
Where Can I Learn More?
Google has a host of articles and websites. Or on Instagram follow #gratitudejournal and these accounts for daily insights into why and how to practice gratitude; @drjessamy, @the_positive_planner and @happyselfjournal.