December 27, 2017 Sue Mowrer
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Kick off the New Year with a new Attitude: Gratitude!

If you’re looking for something that will improve your life that isn’t the usual “eat better/exercise more/declutter, how about this: try to practice gratitude every day. It’s free, needs no special equipment and anyone can do it.

If it’s improved well-being you’re after (and who isn’t?) consider this: “A 2015 article in the Scientific American reported that the single best predictor of good relationships and emotional well-being is gratitude.” Plus, it’s been shown that people who regularly practice gratitude may experience lower stress levels, less depression, and even better sleep. Best of all, they develop better connections and relationships. 

“The Little Book of Gratitude" by Robert Emmons

This small book is a super-quick read, with lovely watercolor illustrations, with simple tips to help you get in the grateful mindset. It’s not a rigid program – just a guide for giving gratitude every day. He writes that “It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift, accompanied by an awareness that nothing can be taken for granted.”

Most of us are probably aware of gratitude journals (thanks, Oprah!) and Emmons suggests this is a great place to start. Writing down one, or a few things to be grateful for each day can help to improve your outlook. But the great thing about his approach is he also allows for easing up if it becomes too much of a chore.

One of his key points is that “through practicing gratitude and sharing goodwill to others that we create connections among our family, friends and others.” 

“Switch your focus to other people. Do focus on what you have received. Do not compare yourself to others. Do not be envious or live a life of regret. Do not isolate yourself from others." 

Here are some other things he suggests:

  • Think about three things that went well for you yesterday.
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone you wish to thank that you never did
  • Practice mindful thank yous for the next seven days.

He dispels the myth that gratitude isn’t possible in the midst of adversity or suffering.

Of course, frustrating and sad things will still happen, but by giving thanks for the good in your life, you’ll find there is a way to escape the tendency to go negative.  The benefits of practicing gratitude come from an increased ability to reframe how you see things that happen to you, changing your attitude and the message.

His three key steps towards gratitude

            Joy – Look for the Good

            Grace – Receive the Good

            Love – Give Back the Good 

“In gratitude, we recognize that the source of goodness is outside of ourselves.”

“The Gratitude Diaries: How a year looking on the bright side can transform your life” by Janice Kaplan

 Another great book, written wanted to see what would happen if she behaved with more gratitude in her life. Through her personal journey, it delves a bit deeper than Emmons’s book, in her conversations with leaders in the positive psychology field, artists, psychiatrists, a sprinkling of celebrities, her good friends, and her own experiences.

Each month she explores one particular area of her life she wants to focus her gratitude on, such as her marriage, her relationships with her children, her efforts at living in a “no-complaint zone,” work situations, the effects of being in nature and “making bad times better.”

This book felt like a gift – her writing is clear, funny and very practical in its inspiration. Lots to think about and it made me want to go out and do something nice for somebody – a great way to begin the New Year.

Happy 2018 everybody! Wishing you a year filled with joy and gratitude.

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