As we head towards the end of one year and into another, many of us find ourselves reflecting on what has gone well, recognising what hasn’t been quite what we had hoped and looking forwards to plan our blissful future! A quote from Jim Rohn works well at this time … "Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want."
With talk of New Years Resolutions no doubt about to hit us from all angles, I thought it worth sharing an idea I often talk with people about (you know who you are!!) It’s not new, many people already benefit from the approach (myself included on those days when I remember to do it!!) I share it because it works … it really does do a job! And this magic tool I mention is … Gratitude journaling.
Taking time each day to focus on the positive things that you have experienced, however small, creates a positive ripple effect that genuinely helps to maintain good feelings or rebalance your mindset if you’re struggling. It takes practice, patience and hard thinking - some days the fact that you had a nice cup of tea or hot shower can be sufficient to make it to the list … other days it might be something truly amazing you’ve experienced from a bucket list of world wonders!
Of course we don’t need to keep this to ourselves, we can also get joy and positivity from expressing gratitude to others, a small thank you message or card, a compliment. A call …
Expressing gratitude – or counting our blessings, has been scientifically proven to bring benefits :
- It improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in personality and Individual Differences.
- Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.
- More friends ! A 2014 study found that thanking someone makes them more likely to be keen to maintain a relationship and acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities
- Grateful people are more likely to behave in a kindly even when others are less pleasant, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge .
- Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
- Gratitude improves self esteem . Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
- Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress., but it may also play a major role overcoming trauma. . A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resiliecnce following the 9/11 terrorist attacks Recognising all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience
Build a habit to reflect on the positive, sometimes having a number in mind such as 5 or 10 things to find can help. Our lists aren’t comparable and no two are likely to be the same … we are all thankful for different things. My suggestion is… give it a go .. see what it brings for you as the days pass.
You could start with thinking back over the past year and all of the things that have gone well for you, all you can be proud of, the things you have enjoyed and that have brought you happiness. Take note of all you’ve accomplished and feel good about it.
If you then also want to focus on what has not gone so well, or changes you’d like to make for 2020, go ahead ( doing this AFTER thinking about the good stuff puts us in a better place to think logically and positively about the challenges ahead.) One of my favourites Zig Ziglar said -Goals enable you to do more for yourself – and others too. It can’t hurt to consider what else you’d like to happen, the ambitions you have, the experiences you want. Set those goals … and you can be grateful for achieving them, this time next year! What’s not to love!?