Don’t Worry. Be Happy.
Here are some statistics that ought to get your attention:
In an oft-replicated study, one group of people was assigned to keep a gratitude journal (writing down things they were thankful for) and the other was left alone to do their own thing. Those who kept the journal reported: 16% fewer negative physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, 8% more sleep, 25% increased sleep quality, and reduced depressive symptoms by 35%.
I don’t know about you, but I will take that 25% better sleep, thank you very much.
There is empirical evidence of a gratitude/well being connection. In another study, participants were divided into three groups (i.e., one group was asked to journal about negative events or hassles, a second group about the things for which they were grateful, and a third group about neutral life events) and were required to journal either daily or weekly. Across the various study conditions, the gratitude subsample consistently evidenced higher well being in comparison with the other two study groups.
In a study in which 221 adolescents were assigned to either a gratitude exercise (i.e., counting one’s blessings), a hassles condition, or a control condition. As predicted, the gratitude condition was associated with greater life satisfaction. The authors concluded from their experience that counting blessings seems to be an effective intervention for enhancing well being in adolescents.
Finally, the kicker—A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s the same impact as doubling your income.
We all know how happy we think we’d be with twice the income. Can you really get the same well-being affect with a pen, paper, and give minutes?
Who would not take that bet?
How many gifts?
Ann Voskamp’s best seller 1000 Gifts chronicled her journey back toward gratitude and peace by journaling 1000 things she was thankful for. They were not huge things. She thanked God for little things, like light in lace curtains or the smell of children’s shampoo.
She learned a lesson for us all:
“In this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. Though pastors preached it, I still came home and griped on. I had never practiced. Practiced until it became the second nature, the first skin. Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”
Gratitude as a lifestyle can’t be murky. It must focus down on the daily specifics. One nail at a time. That’s the only way it’s sustainable.
This is such an easy way to peace. Do as Ann says—practice it. Practice by writing. Every day. Just three things Or five if you’re feeling especially good. Be specific. Don’t thank God for your spouse or kids. Thank him for the way your husband makes room in the garage for your car first. Thank him for the curl of your baby boy’s hair on his forehead. Thank him for your friend’s weird laugh that makes you forget all your woes.
Specific, small things.
This specificity allows us, forces us, to remember in detail, a key to real gratitude.
Gratitude in the abstract almost never sustains. We need details we can latch our hearts too.
Here are a few things I wrote this week:
*flowers from a son-in-law
*blue kitchen appliances
*swirly colors in homemade soap
*a husband who makes me tea in the morning before he leaves
A dollar store journal. A free pen you
swiped borrowed gratefully at church. Five minutes between diaper changes or after morning coffee or before bed. You will be amazed.
I cannot guarantee you you will double your income. (The study just says you will feel like you did.)
But I can guarantee—peace.
This blog originally ran in December of 2015, but it’s being reposted as part of #LiveFreeThursday and #LivingaLifeofThankYou. Because who doesn’t need more of that?