November 2018 Gratitude Series – A Monthlong Practice of Thanksgiving
Week 1: The Gratitude Diet: How Five Minutes a Day Can Make You a Happier, Healthier Person
Divorce can bring about a variety of negative emotions: anger, shame, guilt, resentment regret, and fear. But there is one practice that can combat all these feelings and shift your perspective and attitudes: Gratitude. As simple as it sounds, generating feelings of thankfulness can (and does) have real and sustainable positive impact on your life.
According , Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and best-selling author, a gratitude practice can transform your life. And that’s not just New Agey crystal and incense bunk. He has research to back it up.
Over the past 30 years, Emmons conducted a variety of studies to measure the physical and emotional effects of gratitude and discovered:
- Gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol).
- Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94 percent of them.
- People who keep a gratitude journal demonstrated a reduced dietary fat intake of as much as 25 percent. (No, gratitude can’t melt the pounds away, but people who actively appreciate life tend to not take their health for granted. They are more likely to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, and attend regular medical check-ups.)
- Gratitude is related to a 10 percent improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain (76% of whom had insomnia) and 19 percent lower depression levels.
- Plus, gratitude increases self-esteem, enhances willpower, strengthens relationships, deepens spirituality, boosts creativity, and improves athletic and academic performance.
When it seems that there’s nothing to be grateful for in your life, that’s the best time to begin a gratitude practice. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Before going to sleep each night (or first thing in the morning) spend five minutescreating a gratitude journal. Start by simply making a list of at least ten basic “good” things in your life: home, food, car, health, job, children, friends, etc.
Step 2: Then drop deeper into each item on your top ten list and become more descriptive. For example, under home list aspects of your home for which you are grateful (ie: safe, clean, warm in winter/cool in summer, comfortable, gets good light, nice neighbors, etc.)
Step 3: After you’ve expanded your list out as far as possible, use your gratitude time each day to write about something that occurred in your life for which you are grateful. No matter how difficult your day, make a point of finding something to write about everyday.
Step 4: Get into the habit of noting the good in your life. During the day, use your phone to make note of good things that happen so you’ll have a list to draw from later.
Not feeling particularly grateful right now? No problem. Gratitude is a state of mind that you can consciously practice and improve upon. In other words: Gratitude is a choice. Yes, it takes time and effort. But spending five minutes a day writing about the aspects of your life for which you are grateful can instill life-long benefits.