As I begin to delve into Positive Psychology this week I’d like to start by exploring the value of “gratitude”. This concept has been written about within Positive Psychology and lots of great ideas have been gathered. Most of these ideas have been there for a long time sometimes forgotten or overlooked.
So let me start by mentioning why I decided to start here. Firstly it ties in with my previous blog stream on values. Secondly it was prompted by a message from an old friend.
My friend had received bad news about the death of a parent. Unfortunately the news arrived rather late and as my friend lives overseas getting back for the funeral was impossible as it was planned for the next day.
It reminded me of how lucky I am and how it was time for me to recognise that. I sometimes spend time complaining about my family and the fact that it doesn’t resemble “The Waltons”. Growing up I often wished I had the kind of family that was always saying “I love you” and that would say things that would allow me to grow up with a positive self-image. That didn’t happen.
However in all my complaining perhaps I missed the most important thing of all. I was and I am loved. My parents are still alive and although failing in health they are here. I might get frustrated with my mother for not allowing others to help her however she is a strong woman. Her strength and independent spirit are two things I inherited from her and I am grateful for both of those strengths.
I also know that both my parents, my sister and my brother are there for me 100%. My sister is now also committed to her own personal development journey and I am grateful for how that is allowing us to become much closer. We are moving toward the kind of relationship that I wanted.
I am grateful for the wonderful man I have been married to for nearly twenty years. He is loving, loyal, dependable, supportive, inspiring, creative, handsome and sexy. In short he is Brilliant! I am also grateful for the strength I had in breaking my old negative relationship patterns that have allowed me to have this wonderful relationship.
There are many other things I am grateful for and I will continue to reflect on these however for now let me get back to sharing what this has to do with Positive Psychology.
In 2006 an online research project was undertaken by Seligman et al (date is from memory so you might need to check). It looked at several positive interventions including one I have written about before.
The idea was to keep a gratitude journal, writing down at least five things you are grateful for every day. The things to record could be big things if they happened however it was more important to recognise even the smallest thing such as a person opening a door for you.
This helps to format the mind to notice the positive around us and counter balances the constant bombardment of negative news. As we look for the positive it has a beneficial impact on our positive affect.
The research supported this. People doing this exercise for just one week saw a significant improvement in their life satisfaction and well-being. After six months this effect was still there and for many who continued the exercise voluntarily the improvement continued.
I came across this idea myself over twenty years ago watching an edition of Oprah! One of her guests (I’m sorry I don’t remember the name) shared this technique. I have used it myself and with others since then. I have continually received feedback on how powerful this exercise is.
Try it yourself and let me know how you get on. You can really kick start this mind-set by writing down first of all everything in your life that perhaps you have been taking for granted. I plan to do that myself.