A Personal Growth Plan Should Include Gratefulness to Find Happiness
Some believe that gratefulness is a major key to happiness. One may begin their exploration into gratefulness with an exercise: No matter how stressful or sad the week has been so far, stop and think of something that happened that was good – that was happy, peaceful, loving, or just the way it should have been. If not one single thing in the entire week was good, think about the strength it takes to survive such a week. Then, take a deep breath … and say aloud, “I am grateful for [this good thing, or the strength it took to survive].” Remember, expressing gratitude is akin to sending a heartfelt Thank You Email to life itself, much like the professional emails we send to convey appreciation in our work interactions.
With the words, “I am grateful,” there may be a momentary release from the constant dissatisfaction that affects many individuals. There may be a small stillness amid the usual chaos.
Now, quite deliberately, smile and carry on with the day. Chances are, as the day progresses, it will seem a little happier, brighter, and filled with greater opportunity.
Being Grateful Put to the Test
Gratitude is a hot topic today among those social scientists who study how to be happy. Several studies designed to evaluate the impact of gratitude have been administered to a great many people, and it has been discovered that these individuals are generally:
- More alert
- More enthusiastic
- More optimistic
- Less depressed
- Less anxious
- More satisfied with their lives
- More satisfied with their relationships
- More in control of themselves
- More comfortable with themselves
- Better able to cope with life’s problems
- Better able to grow from the experience
- Less subject to denial when there is a problem
- Less likely to blame themselves for things that are not their fault
- Less subject to insomnia, sleeping much better and through the night
- Less likely to take drugs
In one of these studies, each participant was asked to write a letter thanking someone to whom they owed a debt of gratitude. The study participants were then instructed to visit that person and read the letter to the individual. Doing this only once, participants reported they had created more happiness for themselves for up to three months.
In another study, participants were asked to count their blessings each day for a week. Those who did this reported a significantly better outlook on life. Some of the participants in this test found the experience of being thankful to be so rewarding that they continued taking note of the good things in life long after the test ended.
Overall, the conclusion drawn by the experimenters about the link between gratitude and happiness is that being grateful — feeling grateful and acting with gratitude — is one of the top predictors of happiness.
Create an Attitude of Appreciation
Cultivating an attitude of appreciation for the positive aspects of people, the opportunities hidden within challenges, and the blessings birthed from tragedies, creates the kind of resiliency that supports people to handle any situation that life offers – the high of a miracle, the low of heartbreak, and the plateau of daily chores. There are three simple steps to create an appreciating attitude.
As a person becomes aware of their attitude, they can easily shift it. The first step is for a person to notice when they are doing the opposite of appreciating: criticizing others, complaining about situations, judging themselves, or doing anything that makes them feel angry, frustrated, or depressed. From this place of awareness, change can happen.
When a person becomes aware that they are judging, criticizing, or complaining, it’s important not to beat themselves up, but instead accept their current mood, perhaps even find amusement in it. Then it becomes easier to accept the person or situation they were focusing negatively on. Acceptance brings relief.
With awareness and acceptance, a person can now shift their focus to something they appreciate about another or a situation. They can stop magnifying the flaws and start noticing the benefits. Appreciation is uplifting and opens a person’s eyes and heart to possibilities and happiness.
Tips for Showing Appreciation and Expressing Gratitude
Incorporate these tips from positive psychology into daily activities to experience greater happiness and personal growth.
The Gratitude Letter
Write to someone who has positively influenced your life. Describe the impact this person has made on your life and explain what this person’s contributions have meant to you. This activity is most powerful when you deliver the letter in person and remain while the person reads it, generally leading to very positive, emotional interactions.
Three Good Things
At the end of each day and just before retiring for the night, think of three good things that have happened to you that day, things for which you are grateful. These need not be events of major impact but can be any of the simple, repetitive events that are often taken for granted. Examples might be: having a job, loving someone, enjoying a routine meal, or reading a funny story.
Practice the art of savoring each positive thing in your life, beginning with today’s three good things. Bring forth the positive feelings associated with each of the three good things, one at a time. Let the feelings linger, much as you might hold a bite of delicious food on your tongue, allowing the taste to linger while you relish it.
An “Attitude of Gratitude” Learning Exercise
Some may be inclined to perform their gratefulness exercises. Consider the following exercises, performed daily for one week.
At the beginning of the first day, rate your happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being miserable and 10 being ecstatic. Don’t worry about getting the number exactly right. You will do this again at the end of the week, and it is the comparison of the two numbers, from now and at the end of the week, that is important.
- Make a list of two or three things you are grateful for today. Remember, if life stinks at the moment, start with “I am grateful for the strength to survive” or “I am grateful I am alive.”
- Every day during quiet time, read your list aloud. Pay attention to any positive feelings that are experienced while reading.
- If, at any time of the day, you think of something else to be grateful for, add it to the list. If the list gets longer than seven or eight things, remove some of them. You’ll know which ones because they will seem stale or boring when you read them the next time.
- If at any time during the week, you find yourself reflecting on things on your list, smile and know that this is good.
At the end of the week, again rate your happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. Compare the two ratings.
This Attitude of Gratitude exercise is designed to hint at the power of gratitude in one’s life. Those who take the test may very well find that their happiness level has increased by the end of the week; some may choose to continue this exercise for many weeks, months, or even years.
More Tools of Happiness, Gratitude, and Appreciation
Use these tools of showing gratitude and appreciation to find happiness.
- The Best You – Think about a time when you were at your best. This would be a time that was very satisfying to you, perhaps filling you with pride at something you accomplished. Write about what you did and how you felt. Identify the characteristics you demonstrated at that time. These might be things such as creativity, honesty, humor, insight, or compassion.
- Notice Your Strengths – Identify your special and unique abilities, often called signature strengths. These are the skills and abilities you have that you enjoy using and that normally yield excellent results. Intentionally find a way to utilize one or more of your strengths in a new way.
- Three Questions – At the end of the day, ask these three questions: What have you learned? What has energized you? What has inspired you?
Gratitude Improves Health and Happiness
Health and happiness abound when a person learns to be grateful for all of life’s experiences. Here are several examples.
- Begrudging a colleague’s success limits a person and imprisons them in their smallness. Acknowledging them uplifts a person and frees them in their bigness.
- Criticizing family and friends creates a wall of distrust. Appreciating them builds a bridge of love.
- Complaining of body aches shuts down the flow of healing energy. Loving the body and its innate wisdom increases the flow.
- Griping about poor weather dampens a person’s spirit. Taking comfort in the sounds of raindrops, the silence of snow, or the freshness of cold, crisp air enlivens the soul.
- Resentment leads to bitterness and shutting down. Forgiveness leads to acceptance and appreciation.
- Reminiscing over past painful experiences keeps the pain alive. Noticing the growth and opportunities soothes the pain and opens the door to gratitude.
Journaling Thoughts of Thankfulness and Appreciation
A gratitude journal is a wonderful way to capture appreciative thoughts about people, experiences, and situations in life, helping to increase feelings of happiness and joy. There are a variety of formats a journal for expressing gratitude can take. Following are some ideas to help you choose a gratitude journal that works for you.
Purchase a Gratitude Journal Specifically for Expressing Thanks
If choosing to buy a gratitude journal, choose a special notebook that evokes happy feelings when you look at it and inspires a desire to write. A pretty journal that begs to hold beautiful thoughts and ideas is a wonderful place to keep an ongoing list of appreciation.
Create a One-of-a-Kind Gratitude Journal
With a little crafting and creativity, a plain notebook can be turned into a beautiful journal for giving thanks. Visit a local craft supply store to find colored pens, stickers, pretty scrapbooking papers, and other crafting goodies that inspire happy thoughts of Thanksgiving. Invite friends and children to create their gratitude journals and turn the crafting event into a gratitude celebration!
Write Gratitude Lists on Whatever is at Hand
Creating a habit of jotting down gratitude lists on the fly can help ease negative thoughts and turn around difficult experiences, generally increasing feelings of well-being. Be prepared to create gratitude lists anytime and anywhere to reap the rewards of an attitude of gratitude. So if a pretty journal isn’t readily available, don’t let that stop you! In a pinch, index cards or scrap paper — or even a cocktail napkin — can be useful places to scribble a list of things for which one is thankful.
Keep an Electronic Gratitude Journal for Thanks-giving
An electronic gratitude journal is a great alternative for people who are less inclined to take up paper and pen, or who happen to spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen.
To make an electronic gratitude journal, create a file in a favorite word processing program, and start a gratitude blog to share daily gratitude lists with friends.
Make Mental Lists of Appreciation and Thankfulness to Journal Gratitude
Journaling about gratitude is still possible, even if there’s no access to paper or a computer. Make mental lists of things to appreciate as you go about your day, and immediately feel the shift in energy as you give thanks for the blessings in life.
Gratitude journaling is a wonderful process that can radically improve a life, attracting greater joy and well-being. Use the above suggestions to create a personal process for expressing gratitude, and indulge in the joyful act of giving thanks and appreciation for life’s blessings.
Healing Effects of Gratitude
Being grateful daily creates an inner reservoir of love and joy that can carry some individuals through any life circumstance.
All it takes to create ongoing health and happiness is a shift in attitude and perspective. A detour from complaining to appreciating, a refocus from what’s missing to what’s plentiful, and a change from tracking what’s bad to what’s good can lead to a more fulfilling life.
About the author: Arlene McCoy is a professional writer at EssayPay, renowned for her exceptional writing skills. With a passion for language and a meticulous eye for detail, she specializes in crafting compelling academic papers. Arlene’s dedication to customer satisfaction sets her apart in the competitive field of academic writing.