Practicing Gratefulness: The Missing Piece
Practicing gratefulness has been touted as being one of the most powerful ways to increase happiness and wellbeing in blogs and books during the last 10 years or so. The science behind it makes it stick. In 2014, even Forbes magazine wrote about it. It seems that if we just add this simple practice to our lives, a pile of benefits rolls our way.
Happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us that practicing gratefulness is one of the three habits that lead to a happy life.
The three habits are:
The ability to reframe a situation. The old adage of making lemons into lemonades works here although I prefer making rotten bananas into banana bread because, well, banana bread.
Making the choice to be kind and generous. This choice should be made regardless of your life situation and regardless of how people treat you. It’s a tough one.
The ability to express gratitude. Whole books and workshops have been created around this simple idea. Most of them ask people to do one simple exercise daily to increase the gratitude they have in everyday life. In order to practice gratefulness, the first step is to start a gratitude journal. The idea is that you should write three specific things that you were grateful for that day before you go to bed. Specificity is key here. It is more powerful to write that you are grateful for the homemade hummus from the corner shop that tasted perfectly with your veggies than it is to write that you are grateful for your family or home.
Seems simple enough right? I was talking this over with a patient a few weeks ago and I took note during our chat that she was always grateful to someone in particular. I asked her during her acupuncture treatment to search for things that she was grateful to herself for.
Her jaw dropped. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we aren’t taught to do this. It arose as a natural response to an observation during a simple conversation but developed into a big idea.
What would happen if we spent more time practicing gratefulness to ourselves for making good choices instead of berating ourselves for the less than good ones?
Is this the key to creating better habits that stick?
The idea that we know what to do to be healthier but we can’t always be bothered to do it has been making my mind crank for a few months now. What is it that leads us to bad choices? I asked this in a blog post and got some responses. One included that the bad choice is easier in the now – even though we are aware that in the long run it makes things harder for us. My new question is: Is the bad choice easier now because of our self talk? If we were grateful for our good choices, would they be easier to make?