In her book, The How of Happiness (2007), Sonja Lyubomirsky describes gratitude as not only saying ‘thank-you’, it is wonder, appreciation, and ‘counting blessings’. It is savouring, not taking things for granted, it is coping, and it is present-orientated (Lyubomirsky 2007). Gratitude is powerful antidote for negative emotions, neutralising envy, hostility, worry and irritation (Lyubomirsky 2007). Robert Emmons, an experienced and prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, defines it as ‘a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life’ (Emmons & Shelton 2002; cited in Lyubomirsky 2007).
There is a plethora of positive effects associated with expressing gratitude. Research suggests that people who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic, more hopeful, and experience more frequent positive emotions (Lyubomirsky 2007). Lyubomirsky’s lab results from her gratitude intervention suggests that, on average, that the people who completed this activity once a week were most likely to experience a boost in happiness (Lyubomirsky 2007). People who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis were physically and mentally healthier, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic (Emmons & McCullough 2003).
In her book, Lyubomirsky suggests keeping a Gratitude Journal as a way of practising gratitude and positive thinking. She recommends choosing a time of the day where you have time to sit peacefully and reflect on three to five things for which you are grateful, from the mundane to the miraculous, and specific individuals.
I decided that I would use my daily planner as a place to record my appreciations. This year I deliberately bought a planner with a space to record my thoughts and musings, with the hope that I would be more reflective. So when I was given the opportunity to undertake this activity I was happy to participate.
Tonight, for my entry in my ‘gratitude journal’, I sat and reflected on my week and all the things for which I was grateful. Considering I spent last night in the Emergency Department and all day in bed, this really made me smile, and appreciate all the good things that happened this week.
This week, I was grateful for:
- My mother-in-law cooking my dinner and having it ready for me after I got home from a long day at uni.
- My umbrella when I was caught in a thunderstorm.
- My warm, and comfortable bed after a long day at work, doing the night shift.
- My boyfriend’s support and love while I was in hospitable, and while I was sick.
- The crisp, fresh air of Autumn.
Next week, I would like to take a slightly different approach to writing in my gratitude journal. Tonight, being Sunday night, I sat down with my journal and recalled all the things I was grateful for during the week. Next week I would like to write down the things as they happen, so I don’t forget all the little things, and then sit down at the end of the week and reflect on all those things while I write my online diary entry.