Sometimes we fall into the trap of focusing on everything that is negative around us at the cost of ignoring the positive. Inevitably, this can result in unhappiness. To feel true gratitude, we must make a conscious effort to focus on the present and appreciate what we have now. When we take this mindful stance of gratitude, we experience other positive emotions, such as joy, love, and happiness. In addition, it can help improve your health, improve your ability to deal with adversity, and aid in building strong relationships.
In 2003, Drs. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough examined the effects of writing weekly in gratitude diaries on undergraduate students. After 10 weeks, the researchers found those who wrote about gratitude in comparison to the other students who wrote about hassles and annoyances and neutral events, were more optimistic, felt better about their lives, reported fewer physical symptoms, and spent more time exercising. Following their initial study, they conducted a second study in which students in the gratitude condition were asked to write in their diaries daily. The other two conditions in this study included, writing about ways they were better off than other people and writing about hassles and annoyances. The results of the second study indicated those in the gratitude condition experienced more positive mood during the two-week period in which they wrote in their diaries daily in comparison to the other students. A third study was later conducted with adults with neuromuscular disease. The participants were asked to either write gratitude diaries for a 21-day period or to just fill in assessments focusing on mood, well-being, and health. Participants in the condition asked to write diary entries also had their partners rate their mood and life satisfaction. Results of the third study suggested participants in the gratitude group overall had more positive views of their life. They reported more positive mood and less negative mood daily during the study, as well as improved sleep. Their partners also reported gratitude impacted the participants’ mood positively.
With that said, try to take a moment every day to reflect on what you are grateful for. Keeping a journal or diary can help not only track your gratitude thoughts, but it can also be a great resource to turn to on a particularly tough day.