You may have seen lots of updates lately or been nominated for this yourself on Facebook, where your task is to list three things you are grateful for each day for seven days. Through the process you nominate three people to do the same.
I often look at these "Facebook games" as a bit of a nuisance and try to ignore them, but this one's a little different. Because it's about gratitude, y'know?
Gratitude as a teaching and as a practice tends to stick with people. Early this year I was a mentor in a program for business owners. My assigned role was to teach about marketing and digital media. At the beginning of a presentation, instead of my usual, I spoke about adopting a practice of gratitude. At the end of our six month program, the protégés all signed a thank you card and mine had some surprising notes. About a third of the comments in my card were specifically about the gratitude piece I had delivered, and what a profound effect it had.
Why gratitude? Do we really have to bother?
Pull up Google and ask why we need to express gratitude, and you'll see all kinds of studies that validate how essential gratitude is. Even people who are "average" and keep a gratitude journal for just six weeks reap these important benefits:
• People who are grateful have less negative health issues than people who tend to take everything for granted.
• Grateful people celebrate the present. Research on emotions shows that positive emotions don't last that long. Our emotional superstructure likes novelty, change, and excitement. We're really good at adapting to positive circumstances and then before too long we say the novelty has worn off, and that new outfit, or new apartment, or new car simply lose their lustre. Exercising gratitude, however, makes us appreciate the value, and make it less likely we'll take it for granted. In effect, being grateful means that we can deliberately magnify things that give us pleasure, and celebrate things we want to enjoy over and over again.
• Gratitude is healthy. There are studies that show that gratitude can reduce the impact of depression and anxiety. This makes sense to me, given that the focus during gratefulness is on positive emotions and events, and that same practice can be used to deliberately block elements like resentment, regret, or anger.
• Grateful people are more resilient. In the face of serious trauma, suffering, and negative surroundings, people who practice gratitude are more adept at recovering. Their resilience seems to be rooted in being able to interpret negative life events as temporary, to help protect them from negative effects like stress and anxiety, and to facilitate recovery. I'm continuing my research on resilience and find this to be absolutely the case with my clients.
Being in a state of gratitude isn't always easy, which is why we refer to it as a practice. You have to work at it, and it doesn't hurt to have tangible reminders nearby to reinforce what you are doing. Using a gratitude journal that sits beside your bed, or a gratitude jar, or even setting a reminder on your phone so that you put your remarks into an app will help you develop a gratitude habit.
So, if someone tags you on Facebook and assigns you the task of sharing three things you are grateful for, instead of being annoyed, try to see it as an opportunity to practice the habit of gratitude. Of course, you don't actually have to put these things on Facebook - it's up to you. Actually, I have a much bigger idea!
If you'd like to share your gratitude statements, email me and I will compile your "gratitudes."
Everyone who submits at least one gratitude will be entered into a draw for a copy of the first print run of the Ladybird Files Inspired Gratitude Journal, due out in time for Christmas. You might just win a copy, and you'll be able to purchase copies for your family and friends. Send lots of gratitudes! I'm anticipating a big response, so we may have to select the gratitudes that get shared in the journal, and if one or more of yours are included, you will be a published author! (I want to include them all of course, but I have a feeling there could be A LOT!). When you send your gratitude statement, tell me if I can include your name in the book or in posts on social media, or whether you'd rather remain anonymous in the printed space. I'll confirm things via email so that we get it all set up properly. Let's start a community of gratitude, right here.
A portion of the proceeds for the books will go to Alberta's Mental Health Foundation.
Deadline to submit your gratitudes is August 31, 2014. Send one a day or if you want to really develop your gratitude habit, send three each day. It's up to you! Just make sure you send me one or more gratitudes by August 31 to be included in the draw, and to get your gratitudes posted online and in the book.
Let's start living in Inspired Gratitude. Are you with me?