The Pessimist’s Guide to Gratitude

Your mother was right–say thank you.

Scientists have now proven what your mother always knew–it’s good to be grateful.  Being grateful is more than just politeness; it’s actually good for your health and well-being.

In a study by Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, and Davis and Michael E. McCullough, of the University of Miami, people who kept gratitude journals showed higher levels of health and well-being than people who journaled neutral events or counted hardships.  After 2 months, the people who journaled their gratitude felt more optimistic and happier than their control counterparts. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.  People with neuromuscular problems who did the same thing fell asleep more quickly, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.  Even their spouses noticed the difference!

How can you cultivate gratefulness even if you’re a glass-half-empty person?

The first step for pessimists is to fake it.  Write down what you’re grateful for, even if you don’t feel it at the moment.  Eventually the habit of finding life’s gifts will change your outlook.

Keep your gratitude list simple.  Write down 5 things you’re grateful for every day.  Use short, simple sentences, but be specific.  “I’m grateful for my son” is less effective than “I’m grateful my son snuggled next to me before bed.”

Carry a traveling gratitude journal.  Buy a mini-notebook or use a note-taking app on your smart phone.  Count the things you’re grateful for as they happen.

And finally, write a gratitude letter.  Send a letter to someone who influenced your life and tell them how much you appreciated their support.  You’ll feel happy and you’ll make them feel happy.

The trick to building gratefulness is to do it often and regularly.  While the end of the year is a good time to celebrate gratefulness as a holiday, take the habit into your everyday life.  Soon you will notice that you feel lighter and happier.

I am grateful to all of you for an extraordinary year.  It has been my pleasure to work with you and support your health.  Thank you for a wonderful 2012 and may this next year bring you health, prosperity and happiness.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks / Foter / CC BY

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