An Attitude of Gratitude

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we learned that positive emotions create an upward spiral in our worlds as they broaden our focus and build our resources, while negative emotions cause a downward spiral making it easy to kick ourselves down the proverbial stairs (1). Furthermore, our emotions impact others. Research supports that our emotions and behaviors impact others within three degrees of separation (2)!

This ripple effect doesn’t just go outward. The ripple effect of those around you can also impact your well-being. Remember, happiness and behaviors that impact our well-being (like smoking, obesity, and a tendency to exercise) spread through social networks (2). So choose your friends wisely!

With this understanding, I invited you to create an intentional spiral of positivity last week. Did you capitalize on the good stuff to increase positive emotion, life satisfaction, and belongingness (3,4)? If so, what did you do to create a positive spiral in your world? How did it feel to share your positive emotions? Did you notice a ripple effect?

This week, I want to continue to use positive emotions to broaden and build our psychological resources by engaging gratitude (1).

Irving Berlin was on to something when he said to count your blessings instead of sheep! Along with zest, hope, love, and curiosity, gratitude is robustly correlated with life satisfaction (5). It also makes us more interested, attentive, helpful, determined, optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic, and joyful (6)! It even decreases envy, anxiety, depression, and loneliness (6).

Folks who are grateful acknowledge the good things that happen in their world and recognize when that goodness is coming from somewhere outside of themselves. It means taking time to express your thanks to others (7). Gratitude is personal and interpersonal. It can create meaning and build positive, appreciative relationships (6).

Gratitude seems simple. Yet, it's easy to fall into this camp...

Gratitude is a powerful positive emotion. It helps you frame your experiences in a positive way, and folks who cultivate gratitude in their everyday lives are happier and healthier than those who don’t (8).

So this week, I invite you build and share gratitude. 

Let’s start with the Three Good Things exercise (9). Simply write down three things that you are grateful for each evening this week. They can be large or small. The key here is after each positive event you list, write down why you think this good thing happened. Taking the time to reflect on the things you are grateful for increases both happiness and life satisfaction. So ask yourself: 

This exercise has been shown to be most effective when completed at the end of each day. Try it each evening for a week. Keep a journal or notebook near your bed. If you go to sleep happy, you are more likely to wake up happy as well!

If you find this practice difficult, have patience with yourself. It will get easier over time as your perspective begins to shift. And if you feel your motivation waning, switch it up and try making a list of the good stuff you are grateful once a week. Find what works for you to develop and stick with a long-term practice of gratitude. 

My second invitation this week is to share your gratitude with someone else by writing a Gratitude Letter (9). Think of someone that you have never properly thanked. Take the time to put pen to paper this week and write a letter expressing your gratitude to them. If at all possible, deliver your letter personally, tell them you've never properly thanked them, and read it aloud. While it may feel vulnerable, it can also be incredibly meaningful. You will bolster their well-being as well as your own! 

I hope you enjoy cultivating and sharing gratitude this week. This also seems like a great moment to say thank you to all of you! I hope you are enjoying this journey towards well-being, and I so appreciate you joining me each week.

I look forward to seeing you again next Monday as we wrap up our time on positive emotions and begin to explore well-being through lens of engagement!

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Fredrickson B. Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishers; 2009.

2. Fowler J, Christakis N. Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, a2338; 2008.

3. Langston C. Capitalizing on and coping with daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1994; 67, 1112–1125.

4. Gable S, Reis H, Impett E, Asher E. What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2004; 87, 228–245.

5. Park N, Peterson C, Seligman M. Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of social and Clinical Psychology. 2004; 23(5), 603-619. 

6. Grenville-Cleave B. Introducing positive psychology: A practical guide. Icon Books Ltd; 2012.

7. Peterson C, Seligman M. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol 1). Oxford University Press; 2004.

8. Seligman M, Steen T, Park N, Peterson C. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist. 2005; 60(5), 410.

9. Peterson C. A primer in positive psychology. Oxford University Press; 2006.