Gratitude Exercises from Positive Psychology
Research shows that simply focusing each day on three to five things for which you can be grateful will increase your health and happiness. Everyone has something to be grateful for. Just being alive for one. Having a job, or enough money for lunch, or a roof over your head are all things to be appreciated.
For an even stronger dose of health and happiness, express your gratitude to someone else. Holding the thought of gratitude for a good friend will benefit you. Expressing that gratitude to the friend will benefit both of you.
Failing to reflect on the everyday benefits of being alive may be a big mistake, robbing you of the opportunity for a healthier, happier life.
Tips for Good Health
University of California Davis positive psychology professor Robert Emmons’ research indicates that “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, (and) regular physical examinations.” His research finds that grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic that boosts the immune system.
“There are some very interesting studies linking optimism to better immune function,” says Lisa Aspinwall, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Utah.
“A growing body of research supports the notion that rediscovering a sense of abundance by thinking about those people and things we love lowers the risks of coronary events,” offers clinical psychologist Blair Justice, Ph.D., professor-emeritus of psychology at the UT School of Public Health at Houston.
Justice practices a gentle daily examination. “At the end of the day, I ask myself three questions.”
- “What has surprised me?”
- “What has touched me?”
- “What has inspired me?”
He says that “hard-bitten folks have trouble finding beauty or seeing life anew in a daily way, and their arteries and immune system suffer for it.” Answering these three questions inspires us to see the stuff of our days through fresh eyes.
Today, on your way home from work or as you get ready for bed, focus on three to five events of the day for which you are grateful. These need not be big events. After all, you’re alive. Even being stuck in rush hour traffic can offer the benefit of soft music on your radio or quiet time to think. There are many, many reasons to be grateful each day. As you focus on them, notice the sense of peace that envelops you.