I have just finished reading Gratitude Works! by Robert A. Emmons. He is one of the leading researchers in studying gratitude. Statistics says we can be 25% happier if we keep a gratitude journal. He states that keeping a gratitude journal leads to increased feelings of connectedness, improved relationships, better copying with stress, and a greater sense of purpose and resilience. WOW all that from writing down a few things?
Robert Emmons states three keys to keeping a gratitude journal. They are specificity, surprise and scarcity. Be specific in your journal entries. Exactly why today are you grateful to that person or event – give details of what happened today or over time. What surprised you today – an unexpected coffee from a co-worker? A seat on the bus with a friend? Writing down your surprises keeps your journaling fresh. Scarcity – acknowledge something/someone we may not have later. If you knew you were going to lose something would you be more grateful for it now? Don’t take people/events for granted.
Developing a more grateful disposition does not mean you will not experience grief, be overwhelmed or frustrated. Having a more grateful attitude will help you cope with the harder times in your life. You hopefully will be better at reframing events. Seeing some positives in hard times and appreciating them. Not getting caught in that downward spiral of negativity.
We have to start checking our sense of entitlement at the door. Yes to hard work, but the universe doesn’t owe us anything. We are not more deserving than anyone else. The research says the person being grateful – saying thank you, acknowledging a job well done gets as much from the experience as the person receiving. If keeping a gratitude journal helps keep our sense of entitlement in check that is another reason to get the paper and pen out!
At the end of the book Robert Emmons gives us a 21 days Gratitude Challenge. A few of the journaling entries are reframing gratitude as “gifts” you have received. These gifts can be people in your life, personal talents or random acts of kindness. Also looking at being grateful for what has occurred in our lives will also help with that sense of entitlement if viewed as gifts. If you knew you were going to lose something or had only a short time to enjoy it how would you be more grateful with the time remaining. Write a gratitude letter to someone who made a difference. We assume people know we are grateful but a thank you card can go a long way.
Gratitude Works! has so much more worth reading, such as gratitude letters and visits, growing gratitude through spiritual disciplines and suffering and redemption. All of which I have not even touched the surface of. I am now reading Janice Kaplan The Gratitude Diaries (can you see I am on a theme lately?) and she quotes some of Robert Emmons research on gratitude. I am also doing the 21 day gratitude challenge. Janice Kaplan also keeps a gratitude journal and says you don’t have to write in it everyday to get the effects. Three or four times a week is great. Just be specific, surprised and recognize scarcity.
Let me know what you think. If you currently keep a gratitude journal or are starting one. What is or isn’t working for you. If we all get on board with this – imagine the difference we can make!
You can always start now !