One Simple Thing
Would you believe me if I told you that there was one simple thing that you could do to make yourself happier, make you more likable, make you more physically healthy, boost your career, strengthen your emotions, develop your personality, make you more optimistic, decrease materialism, increase spiritualism, increase self-esteem, make you less self-centered, improve sleep, increase longevity, increase your energy level, make you more likely to exercise, make you more resilient, make you feel good, decrease envy, help you relax, make your memories happier, make you friendlier, help your marriage, make you more socially attractive, help you to make friends, deepen your friendships, help you network, increase goal achievement, improve decision making, and increase productivity??? It’s pretty amazing, and I must admit, unbelievable, to think that doing one thing could achieve all of these results. As a psychologist, I don’t waste my clients’ time or money suggesting anything that is not backed by research. Anyone who has ever worked with me individually or in a group knows that I stand by this simple idea. It’s not new by any means. Can you guess what it is? Ready? It is Practicing Gratitude.
Here is a great article that lists 31 benefits of gratitude, along with the research to support the findings http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/
This is why I started every session of the MotherDaughter Connection with an exercise in gratitude, and why I now incorporate this into the Coping with Loss Support Group that I facilitate. Simply because it is effective, and it feels good. This is something that you can practice on your own, with a partner, and/or with your children.
Practicing Gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve your mood in the moment, decrease depression and anxiety, as well as elevate overall life satisfaction. The great part is that you can do these exercises anywhere, anytime! It all starts with your thoughts. Our thoughts are extremely powerful in creating our own destinies. There is much to be said about The Law of Attraction, the power of positive thinking, and quantum physics. The beauty of it all – YOU hold the power. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started. For maximum results, practice these five simple exercises every day. I am keeping them simple so that you are more likely to stick to them.
- Begin your day with an exercise in gratitude. Think about three things, experiences, people, situations, etc. for which you are grateful. These need not be elaborate, but they should be specific. For example, instead of thinking, “I am grateful for my mother”, think about something specific about your mother for which you are grateful, such as, “I am grateful for my mother’s hugs.” Also, make a point to think about different things every day. This helps to train the brain and scan your environment and life, looking for the positive. Over time, this will become more natural, not just doing this exercise, but as you live your life.
- Keep a symbol of gratitude with you throughout the day. Then when you feel it or see it, let that serve as a reminder to spend a moment in gratitude. I was introduced to this idea by Megan McDowell, Founder of Heartworks. She passed out gratitude stones at the beginning of the meetings. These were simply small river stones to be taken home as a physical reminder to practice gratitude. This also inspired me to make Gratitude Bracelets with Swarovski pearls. With each bracelet comes a card that says, “Wear this Gratitude Bracelet, and every time you look at the sparkly bead, spend a moment in gratitude. Think of one or two people, events, experiences, or things for which you are grateful. Take this a step further and write your thoughts in a Gratitude Journal. The more grateful you are, the more goodness and blessings you attract into your life. With regular practice, you will soon begin to feel elevations in your energy and mood.” I am so grateful for the level of interest in these bracelets. I donate $1 of every Gratitude Bracelet sold directly from me to various non-profit organizations, changing every month. Please visit http://184.108.40.206/~drpeggyd/product/gratitude-bracelets/ or contact me if you are interested in purchasing one
- When you find yourself during the day feeling lonely, frustrated, angry, broke, sad, or jealous, let that emotion be a trigger to focus on one small thing for which you are grateful. I am not suggesting ignoring the negative feeling. That may require your attention and time to work through. However, in addition to that, in order to help shift your energy and not dwell in the negative, think about one thing, person, or situation for which you are grateful. Are you feeling rejected and lonely due to not being invited to a party you saw on Facebook? Think about one friend for which you are truly grateful. Are uncomfortable feelings of envy creeping in that others seem to have more than you? Focus on the roof over your head, food in your pantry, and love in your life. And even if that is not at the level that you would like, focus on being grateful for what you HAVE rather than thinking about what you do not have. The beauty of The Law of Attraction and practicing gratitude is that we attract more into our lives of what we are truly grateful for.
- Be grateful for the simple and the ordinary. On an ordinary day, this can simply be being grateful for being able to wrap your hands around a mug of your favorite beverage. On the worst of days, you can find comfort in the simplest object, situation, or person. I learned this exercise in gratitude simply because I had to. Back in 1992 when my fiancé was sick with cancer, he and the experiences during that time taught me to be grateful for the smallest, seemingly insignificant things. While he was sick and at the hospital the last 42 days of his life, I was so grateful for the hazelnut coffee served in the cafeteria. Yes, hazelnut coffee. I never knew what condition he was going to be in, whether he would be able to talk or even open his eyes and look at me, or what nurses and doctors would be working that day. In addition to the love in the room, the one thing that was consistent was my cup of hazelnut coffee. The smell seemed to permeate his hospital room and make it less sterile. I was comforted by the warmth from the cup. It gave me simple pleasure through its taste, but even more so its predictable availability, in those days that were so full of the anxiety-provoking unpredictable. He knew how much that cup of coffee meant to me, and he encouraged me to stretch my legs and go down the several flights to the cafeteria to get it, or to ask someone to get it for me when he did not want me to leave his side. We were both grateful for the simple pleasure of that predictable hazelnut coffee that kept me company when I was feeling so alone and scared. I am grateful for this life lesson that there is something to be grateful for, even on the very worst of days.
- Express appreciation for the people in your life. Don’t keep these nice thoughts to yourself! Share them! Research demonstrates that one way to improve a relationship is to express appreciation. Doing so not only improves the relationship, but also helps combat depression. We are social beings, and reaching out to another to express appreciation helps to strengthen social relationships. Research demonstrate that social connectedness is a crucial component in preventing and decreasing symptoms of depression. So make a phone call, send a text, or send an old-fashioned snail mail letter expressing your appreciation for someone in your life every day.
I will be conducting a Gratitude Workshop on Tuesday, January 31st from 7:00-8:30. We will be going over these five ideas, as well as many more, to help you find creative and fun ways to incorporate gratitude into your life. You will leave with concrete materials to help you get started the next day. Let’s get started together!