Gratitude and well-being
‘Gratitude’ has become a very common word these days. I see everybody writing or talking about it. In a way it makes me feel good because gratitude has many benefits and seeing people taking it seriously gives me a relief that they will be all right. However, it becomes bothersome when people merely talk about it but never act upon it. Probably it is because they don’t understand it well enough– they think they do but actually they don’t. I just hope I am wrong.
I can speak for myself when it comes to not fully understanding what gratitude is all about. Thankfully life found numerous ways to make me wise. Martin Seligman, a leading psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. Before the emergence of positive psychology, psychology was all about mental illnesses, flaws and shortcomings in people’s personalities. And Professor Seligman changed it. He wanted to promote the idea that we all have strengths within us and to live a happy, satisfied life filled with meaning it is very important that we focus on our strengths and not just weaknesses.
There are many studies on gratitude & well-being. One of the interesting ones is when researchers asked respondents or participants to do one of the three exercises. One group of participants was asked to write down 5 things they were grateful for each week for around 10 weeks. The other group was asked to write things that were negative and they weren’t grateful for (for 10 weeks). The last of the three groups was made to write about neutral events (neither positive nor negative) taking place in their lives for 10 weeks. It was found at the end of 10 weeks that people who took out some time to write gratitude diary continuously recorded being 25% happier than the ones who didn’t.
Sounds interesting, right? Well, it would be better if you also take out some time every day to just reflect upon the things that made you happy and write them down.
Gratitude diary and me
My experience with writing a gratitude diary consecutively for 30 days was a different experience altogether.
- Honestly, I dreaded writing gratitude diary. But my commitment surpassed it.
The challenge I undertook to write 3 things I was grateful for during my day wasn’t easy. It was because I didn’t feel writing it at all. Sometimes I was feeling very sleepy that I just wanted to sleep on it. Sometimes my hands couldn’t manage to write properly and I just wanted to write a single word and get done with it. I literally dreaded it. In spite of all the laziness I did it. And I am glad that I did because I was committed to it. When I decided to undertake the challenge I was very much sure that I would not be able to it. But I proved myself wrong. My unwillingness to write few good words that made my day felt short in front of my commitment to stay stick to a 30 day challenge.
2. I was seeking pearls within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments.
There were days when I was sitting on my chair thinking very hard about 3 good things that I was grateful for. All I could think of was negative chain of events, boredom, frustration, helplessness, etc. Such moments made me realize that happiness isn’t always readily available. Many times we have to take some extra efforts to find or create it. Our days get so bad that all we think of is negativity. And that is okay. But not always. A single cup of coffee or tea with your loved ones or even all by yourself is enough to bring a smile on your face. Like I said, you can find pearls deep within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments; if you try hard enough.
Even though writing gratitude diary some days didn’t feel very appealing and I felt very lazy, I know very well (through empirical studies as mentioned above) that it is very crucial. I am not saying that by writing down 3 or 5 things that made you happy before going to bed is going to make you the happiest person on this earth. Trust me, that’s not what I am suggesting. There is no causation but co-relation. What I am saying is that human brain responds to gratitude and by practicing it regularly we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic and thus at least a little bit happier than before.