gratitude

There is a lot of evidence that gratitude is important to our happiness. Studies have even shown that it can be as effective as antidepressants in many cases. But more than just inner wellbeing, wouldn’t it be nice if gratitude could magically change your outside world, too?

First, a giant Wikipedia dump (trust me, this one is worth reading):

“…people who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance.

“Numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression … Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment.

“While many emotions and personality traits are important to well-being, there is evidence that gratitude may be uniquely important.”

The thing that sticks out to me here is that “grateful people have higher levels of control of their environments.” In my own case, when I feel more grateful, I feel more capable. Events work out better for me, and life flows more easily.

So it seems like gratitude positively improves whatever it touches. If your life is drenched in gratitude, things just get better and better. But this got me thinking about how I could use gratitude to make specific improvements in my life. Instead of a gratitude floodlight that loosely blankets everything, could I use gratitude like a laser-pointer for more control in a specific area? Say, better relationships or more money?

Absolutely. With some experimentation, I created an incredibly simple gratitude-centered technique that can help you make measurable improvements in any specific area of your life. Here’s how it works:

  1. Decide what area of your life you want to improve. It could be better relationships, improved finances, more traffic to your blog, whatever you need. It can be as general or specific as you want.
  2. Grab 30 index cards and a pencil. Put them by your bed.
  3. Every day when you wake up, take 5-10 minutes to write down exactly 5 things that you’re grateful for in relation to your intended goal. Continue this until you run out of index cards (a month). So if you’re looking for improved relationships, you would focus all 5 points on relationship-centered topics; maybe a specific friend, an aspect of yourself, whatever.

I did this myself last month and the results were dramatic. There was no way to explain the improvements I found other than to say this technique clearly had an impact.

Plus, I feel good about using and recommending this process. You know I’m not big on personal development, but this is different. It isn’t a “spammy” technique like visualization where you try to coerce the mothership into giving you a new present. Gratitude unlocks a sense of power that improves your life while also expanding your world in a profound way. A win-win.

The new year is still young – if you need more control or improved circumstances in a specific area (who doesn’t?), give this a shot. Pick a subject, find gratitude around it, and stick with it for a month. The influence of your own gratitude might surprise you.

Image Credit: ally213



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