During a meeting with Jean Kuhn, a business coach, I was complaining left and right about various situations in my life which weren’t coming together in the way I had hoped for. After listening to me ramble for a bit, Jean reached into her purse and pulled out a beautiful, teal-colored journal.
“Here, I want you to have this,” she said. “This is your new gratitude journal. Every morning, write down five things you are thankful for. Every evening before bed, reflect on your day and write down all that you’re grateful for.”
It took me a while to get into the gratitude journal routine. I write for a living, so the routine felt like another job I had to take on. Most mornings, I simply wanted to jump out of bed and get started on the day. Most nights, I just wanted to crawl into bed with a good book. Yet, the beautiful journal at my bedside started to beckon to me. Not to mention the accountability factor of having a coach–I had to produce results. So I wrote. Morning and night. This simple practice changed the way I started and finished each day. Instead of starting the day feeling overwhelmed, I started it with gratefulness. Instead of ending the day with worries, I slumbered off with a full heart.
When you incorporate an attitude of gratitude into your life, everything changes. It’s impossible to be filled with anxiety, worry, or fear when you’re focusing on gratitude. Indeed, gratitude has been shown to have positive effects–such as lowering blood pressure,
Three years ago, I stumbled on a gratitude practice that changed my life. Shortly after my father passed away, I was going through a stack of cards sent from friends. I was touched by every one of them–that someone took the time to reach out and connect during a painful time in my life. One card really brought on the tears. The front of the card contained a picture of my hand enclasped in my father’s–a photo I had posted to Facebook just days before he passed. A friend took that photo, put it on the card, and wrote some heart-felt words inside. I thought about how much that card impacted me–and I realized I wanted to share that same impact with others. I started creating personalized cards and sending them out. The impact rebounded right back at me–relationships took a whole new level, people responded with joy, and the energy was just all-around GOOD.
Scientists and researchers know this. They know that gratitude brings in a multitude of measurable things: lower blood pressure, increased energy, better sleep habits, more kindness, less illness, and more. Even happiness is tied into gratitude–grateful people are happier.
Take a look at this study from the Harvard Medical School:
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
So today, this very moment, jump into the practice of gratitude. Thank someone. Pay it forward. Help someone. Donate. Do something worthwhile. Fill your heart with gratitude, and your life will fill up too.