With the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. Gratitude is more than a general state of thankfulness, it can also be a key tool to enhanced well-being. It’s human nature to pay more attention to the negative aspects of our life, so it’s important to have an intentional practice to train our brains to focus on the positive. It’s well worth the time, as various studies have indicated that having a gratitude practice leads to elevated happiness, decreased depression and increased resiliency.
For example, Emmons and McCullough found that participants in their study that practiced gratitude experienced the following:
- more happiness and joy
- fewer symptoms of physical illness
- spent more time exercising
- were more optimistic and satisfied with their lives
- reported increased positive effects and decreased negative effects
- were more likely to offer emotional support to others
- felt an increased sense of connection with others
- slept more hours and with a better quality of sleep each night
Sounds good to me! The great thing about practicing gratitude is that it is completely free and takes only a few minutes a day.
Try this simple “Three Good Things” exercise, from Dr. Martin Seligman, the founding father of Positive Psychology. “Three Good Things” also known as “Three Blessings” is an extension of gratitude and a simple yet powerful tool that enhances our ability to see the positive aspects in our life.
“Three Good Things” Exercise:
- At the end of the day, think of three things that happened to you that day that went well.
- Write them down (computer or handwritten).
- Reflect on why these things happened.
- Review what you wrote down and review how you feel.
It may seem awkward at first, but once you do this a few nights, it will become more natural. It can be as simple as your kids completed their chores or more eventful such as I received a promotion at work. Be sure to reflect and immerse yourself in the good events. Dr. Seligman promises that we’ll feel “less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now” as many continue this practice beyond one week.
Dr. Seligman explains this practice works as it changes our focus from what went wrong in life to things that we may otherwise take for granted. Focusing on things that go well breaks up depression and increases happiness. Results can be experienced in as little as one week with increased results at the two-week mark.
The “Three Good Things” Exercise was practiced by healthcare workers for two weeks and proved to increase happiness, decrease burnout, decrease problems with work-life balance as well as build resilience and the ability to cope with stresses in life. The best part is that the results were sustained months later. All thanks to a simple, yet powerful tool that is free and takes only a few moments.
“The negative shouts, the positive whispers” – Barbara Fredrickson
It is through positive emotions that we recharge our depleted batteries. When we experience positive emotions, we are filled with a sense of purpose and meaning. It takes being intentional with our thoughts to reap these benefits.
Convinced to start your own “Three Good Things” practice? I have already started! I would love to hear your results.
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It’s Never Too Late for The Life You Want.