Written by Michael J Theron

It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.’ Nelson Mandela.

There are so many things happening right now in our world that our attention is easily diverted in a million different directions. As the numbers soar and we try to adjust to this different way of living and the reality of our current existence, gratitude helps us to focus on what is going right. 

Keeping a gratitude journal is an effective way to do this and allows us to become more attuned to familiar sources of pleasure around us. Research shows that gratitude can be learned and increased. In a study by McCullough and Emmons (2003), participants completed extensive weekly journals for ten weeks, in which they rated their mood, physical health and overall life experience. 

Results indicated that participants reported fewer health complaints. More specifically, the participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness. Also, they spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hours more per week). 

So why not give it a try? Robert Emmons, (University of California, 2003) the leading expert on the science of gratitude, shared these tips for applying the gratitude journal most efficiently: 

  • ▪ To more effectively practice gratitude journaling, psychologist Dr Lyubomirsky (University of Californian, 2004) recommends consciously choosing to become happier and increasingly grateful before writing each journal entry. 
  • ▪ To increase the benefits of gratitude, focus on one or two things in detail that you are thankful for instead of writing an extensive list. 
  • ▪ One effective way to increase the impact of gratitude is to focus on people for whom you are grateful instead of material possessions. 
  • ▪ One strategy to stimulate the experience of gratitude is to ponder what life would be like without all that you have, instead of listing all of the people and things for which you are grateful. 
  • ▪ More robust levels of gratitude stem from remembering and appreciating surprises or unexpected events.

(sourced from https://positivepsychology.com/tools/gratitude-journal/)

For me, taking time out of my day to focus on gratitude has made a significant difference. I especially love doing this with a cup of great coffee in the morning before I start my day (am so eternally grateful for coffee). But please don’t use this as a way of discounting adverse events that you may be experiencing. Those events need to be constructively analysed and processed so that you may learn from them and come up with practical solutions as to how best to deal with them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may this practice bring you joy and happiness.

michael theron

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