Part 1 – Expressing Gratitude
Why is it that some people can face the adverse situations that life presents them and come through without becoming depressed?
This question gave rise to a new perspective in psychology. Instead of looking for why people got depressed the new researchers sought to discover how some people always bounce back and stay on top of adversity.
At the start of this millennium Clinical Psychologist Martin Seligman, (now known as the founder of “Positive Psychology”) and his colleague Sonja Lyubormirsky* carried out an online experiment with a group of 411 mildly depressed volunteers and this experiment had very positive results.
The volunteers were engaged for seven days in one of five well-being enhancing activities that involved practicing gratitude, positive thinking and focusing on one’s strengths.
The result was that they experienced a boost in well-being and a decline in depressive symptoms, and these benefits were maintained well after the experiment ended.
Two of the activities in particular, writing about three good things in one’s life and using one’s key strengths in a new way resulted in the most lasting improvement of depression.
If you are reading this article, then it is likely that you are not as depressed as you think you are. If you believe that your depression is more severe then by all means read on. But also consider seeking professional help.
Now begin your journey toward happiness by setting yourself the task of practicing gratitude – For seven days write about three good things in your life, or more if you wish. If you can’t think of any right now here is a little list of hints to get you started:
- You have a roof over your head
- You have enough to eat
- You have a warm bed in which to sleep
- You have relatives or friends
- You have the sight with which to read this
- You have the ability to move and breathe
Being grateful for the ability to move and breathe will eventually cross over into wanting to ensure that you can always do that. Therefore, you’ll be more motivated to go on walks, eat right, stay hydrated, and live in gratitude for every aspect of your life.
Search within yourself to discover more things for which you are grateful and write about these over a period of seven days.
Do this even if it is something you consider trivial e.g.
- I had a good night’s sleep
- I enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning
- I love playing with my pets
- The sunshine feels good on my skin in the winter
These are only examples, you can add to the list or create your own list!
There is something magical about writing, and you can strengthen this magic when you speak the words as you are writing them and feel the gratitude while you are writing and speaking the words. Now I may be a ‘softie’ but when I was doing my gratitude exercise years ago, tears of joy were moistening my eyes and my heart was uplifted. The scientific evidence has shown that this is very helpful.
Gratitude is something that comes from within, for example you can be grateful for someone who is your friend, the feeling of gratitude comes from within you. The fact that the person is your friend is an external factor.
Over the next few weeks we shall be examining each of the three items mentioned above. Today we started with practicing gratitude.
In Part 2 of this series we shall be exploring using your key strengths in a new way, and don’t think you don’t have any. Everyone has strengths and weakness. We shall be working with your strengths.
In Part 3 We shall be working on positive thinking.
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- It might seem like a pipe dream that writing in a journal could be so beneficial. But the scientific evidence is in, and gratitude journals do benefit you in big ways if you keep one for the long term and use it daily.