About 8 years ago a friend gifted me a notebook and I vowed to make use of it rather than do what I usually did which was put it on the shelf and save it for something special (I still have a lovely glittery A4 Aristocats notebook from my 14th birthday that tells me it’s too nice to be written in…)
I decided to turn it into my happy book. Every day since 1st Jan 2014 I have written down something that made me happy. Looking back over it is lovely, there are so many little things that I would have forgotten otherwise, such as the time I fell off the sofa laughing at a particularly good charity Bake Off episode, or the exact date I met my best friend. It reminds me that life is made up of the “little things” and that they are worth noticing and treasuring.
It also reminds me that no matter how bad a day feels, and I’ve had some stinkers as we all have, I’ve never had a day where I can’t write anything down. I might not feel “happy” but I can focus on the person who looked after me when I was ill, or the TV show that distracted me and even made me smile during a really sad period.
I can’t remember where I first heard this quote but it’s the mantra for my book.
Not every day is a good day, but there is some good in every day. We might need to dig a bit, we might need to be really intentional about noticing it, but it’s there.
What’s the good in your day? A common one you might have seen is “Write down three things you’re grateful for”.
Research has shown some remarkable benefits of having a regular gratitude practice including:
* increased happiness and positive mood
* more satisfaction with life
* less materialism
* less likely to experience burnout
* better physical health
* better sleep
* less fatigue
* lower levels of cellular inflammation
* greater resiliency
Regularly practicing gratitude trains your brain to focus less on the negatives and more on the positives. It also connects you to the things you HAVE and not the things you don’t and might be aiming or wishing for. This is particularly important in our comparison culture.
Research also shows that it has a cumulative effect – so doing something for a day won’t do much, we have to pick something we can commit to regularly for the long term. Which makes sense – we don’t rely on exercising once a year or having one good night’s sleep a week, or only having one therapy session, or building good friendships with people we only talk to once a year.
So what does “practicing gratitude” look like? It could be:
1. As above, writing down something every day that you are grateful for
2. Writing letters to other people to express your gratitude for something they have done for you
3. Listening to gratitude meditations
4. Starting meetings at work or family mealtimes by asking everyone to share one thing that’s going well
5. Take a photo or video every day and make a “second a day” video, collage or post to social media (I’ve done the one second a day thing before for a year and it was so much fun to watch it back)
Tell me if you have a gratitude practice and what benefits you notice, or if you’re going to start one!
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