Yesterday evening I texted my husband that I was exhausted and about to take a long nap. It was so early that he was still at work. I woke up briefly when he got home, asked him about his day and within minutes of that brief conversation I lapsed back into a deep, sound sleep.
I awakened 12 hours later, still in yesterday’s clothes(!), feeling profoundly rested and restored. That was quite a “nap!”
After breakfast – a true breaking of a fast, since I hadn’t eaten since the prior day’s lunch, I was inspired to write about those things I’m grateful for today.
Here are some of them:
- My ability to rest when that is what I most need.
- Our perfect late summer weather.
- Our garden’s abundance of herbs, tomatoes and cucumbers.
- My friend’s “all clear” after a cancer scare.
- My work, which allows me to stand in my own power, making a difference for others, doing that which is in alignment with who I am and what I most value.
- My current state of health, energy and wellness.
Eight Ways That Gratitude Increases Happiness
Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomisky describes eight benefits of a regular gratitude practice:
- It helps us savor positive experiences, getting more satisfaction and enjoyment from our current circumstances.
- It bolsters our self-worth and self-esteem by shifting our attention from setbacks, disappointments or hurts to what we value and appreciate most in our lives right now.
- It helps us cope with stress and trauma by helping us gain a balanced perspective on the difficulties we encounter.
- It encourages moral behavior, making us more likely to help others and less likely to be materialistic.
- It helps us build and maintain our social connections, an important factor in resilience and emotional well-being.
- It makes us less likely to compare ourselves negatively to others, reducing feelings of envy or inadequacy.
- It diminishes or deters feelings of anger, bitterness, fear and defensiveness.
- It keeps us from taking the good things in our lives for granted by heightening awareness of what we appreciate.
Expressing Gratitude in Ways that Work for You
Have you tried the advice to write down three things you’re grateful for each day and then write about why you’re grateful for those things?
That’s a fine thing to do, but that approach doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re one of those that it doesn’t work for, you can experiment to find out what works best for you.
Lyubomirsky’s research shows that on average those who write five things they’re grateful for once a week gain more than those who do so three times a week. Those words “on average” are important , since we might vary from the average, and something other than once or three times weekly might work better for you. Choose a time of day for gratitude writing that works best for you, and vary that time if you wish.
That could be writing three times a week, daily, or monthly. It might be pausing to express gratitude when you find you most need to, such as after going through a particular hardship.
What If You’d Rather Not Write?
Writing is a great way, but not the only way, to strengthen gratitude. Here are some other practices that Lyubomirsky recommends:
- Contemplate what you’re grateful for, giving yourself time to sit quietly and think.
- Purposely bring an ungrateful thought to mind, and then consciously substitute a grateful one that counteracts it.
- Introduce a visitor to the things you love, seeing the ordinary details of your life through another’s eyes.
- Express gratitude through art – drawing, doodling, photography, painting.
- Vary the gratitude practices and how you use them, to keep them fresh.
- Express gratitude directly. Call, phone, write, text and tell someone in your life that you’re grateful for them, and why.
What is your favorite gratitude practice?
References and Credits
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. New York: Penguin Books.