- by Dr. Jennifer Richardson. With the holidays in full swing around us, it is a time of year when the practice of gratitude for the people and experiences that we may come in contact with can be especially helpful. Over the past several years,gratitude journals have become popular and researchers have found that the purposeful practice of taking time on a regular basis to think about and write down moments we feel grateful for can improve our mood and increase the frequency of experiencing happiness. However, in order for this practice to be most effective, it is important to follow a few simple guidelines.
Keep it simple – meaning, don’t force yourself to write 25 different things you feel grateful for on a daily basis. Instead,remember quality matters more than quantity. So choose to take some time once a week for 10 minutes and reflect on just a couple of moments or experiences you may have had that you feel grateful for. It is not necessary to do this practice daily, but instead to regularly take the time to identify a few things you feel grateful about.
2. Be specific - if there are moments, events, or personal interactions that may have come up throughout the week that you feel grateful for, take the time to think about and write down what about that moment, event, interaction meant the most to you. Remembering and reflecting on the details will help you to savor the moment more. For example - instead of saying something more general such as“I feel grateful for my family” you might say something like” I am grateful for my Uncle Bob’s sense of humor and feel grateful for the funny story he shared at dinner the other day. I laughed so hard at his story, that tears came to my eyes and my stomach muscles ached.”
3. Practice Staying Mindful and Open to the Experience - Life is busy, so oftentimes it can be easy to rush through our daily tasks. However, for optimal benefit it is important to practice “being present” for this practice of gratitude. When your thoughts shift from reflecting on your week to your to-do-list, or a meeting you have at work tomorrow, notice where your thoughts shifted to and gently,but firmly, shift your focus back to your week and the moments you are feeling grateful for. You may even notice at times you have negative judgments about other events of your week that were difficult or frustrating and when this occurs do the same - notice where your thoughts wondered to and gently but firmly bring your focus back to reflecting on moments of gratitude.