Active, constructive

Would you like to improve your relationships with your kids, your spouse, significant other, friends, extended family and co-workers?

If so, try the method Dr. Martin Seligman describes in his latest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Seligman is the father of positive psychology and in Flourish he discusses PERMA, the 5 pillars of well-being:

P – Positive emotion (happiness, fun, gratitude);

E – Engagement (flow – loosing ourselves or becoming completely absorbed in our work, our hobbies, or the moment);  

R – Relationships (those that touch our hearts, our souls and our minds); 

M – Meaning (a sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives) and

A – Accomplishment (learning and moving forward with endeavors big and small and knowing and using your strengths).

Today, I’m focusing on only one aspect of PERMA – Relationships, and how to create better connections.

Shelly Gable, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA, took a positive psychology approach to love and marriage research and discovered that how couples celebrate the good times, is a stronger indicator of the strength and resiliency of relationships than how they fight or deal with negative situations. This might not seem like a big deal, but for decades psychologist have been researching and trying to fix conflict or breaks in relationships rather than focusing on what make them stronger.

“Shelly Gable turns all this on its head. She is one of the few who work on what makes a marriage great, and her work holds a crucial lesson for all of us who want to transform a good relationship—marriage, parent, or friendship—into an excellent one.”

Gable developed the chart below to identify and categorize how people communicate in response to good news. Read the chart and decide where the majority of your responses fall. (Be honest – awareness is the first step of change!)

 

Next, observe yourself in action over the weekend and the next week or so, to see if your reactions fall squarely where you think they do. If you discover that your actions are not speaking as constructively as you would like, follow these steps and in no time you will be seeing positive results.

  1. Pay attention. Let the person who is talking to you “see” that you are listening. Look them in the eye, turn your body toward them. Smile, laugh, touch them.
  2. Say something positive: “Oh, Susan, that is wonderful.” “I’m so excited for you.” or whatever words work for you. Let your choice of words and the way you say them show your excitement.
  3. Ask questions: “When did you get the good news?” “How did you find out?” And, then follow-up with a sincere “Tell me all the details.” or “You must have been so excited, tell me all about it.” Any words that show your honest interest are the perfect words. You don’t need to overdo it, just ask and then listen – actively. Stay involved in the conversation so the person you care about, can share and savor the good news with you. Let the conversation be all about them.
  4. Suggest a way to celebrate. “Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate.” “Let’s open a bottle of wine.” Let’s go to the movies.” “Let’s . . . ” simply fill in whatever you know the person or child would really enjoy.

If you’re involved in a conversation and you realize that you aren’t responding as you would like, no problem. Simply stop and ask for a do-over. Say something like “You know what, I don’t think I’m being as positive as I can be about your good news, can we start over?” And then, do it. Your listener may be surprised, but will appreciate it.

Active/Constructive communication works so well, you may notice immediate results. Seligman shares a wonderful story in his book about an Army sergeant, who began actively and constructively responding to his young son and reported “about halfway through the conversation, my son interrupted me and said, “Dad, is this really you?” The sergeant’s new approach made his son uneasy at first, but within a few minutes the happiness in the boy’s voice shared just how much his Dad’s attention and approval meant to him. (Seligman has designed and is implementing a very successful resiliency program for all Army personal, which includes the concept of PERMA; I will share more about it in a future post.)

Give active/constructive communication a try, and let me know how it works. I want to hear all about it!

 

How to become your personal congruency champion

Creating change takes action, and action in the direction of your dreams is a form of congruency. It’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It’s doing what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. It’s living according to your values. 

Congruency, if you let it, can be a powerful motivator and an amazing life enhancer. Here’s how:

After you have moved in the directions of the dreams by taking a risk or moving forward with an action step on the way to a goal – give yourself credit for doing it. Each and every time you accomplish your daily goal or just do something that is in accordance with your values or your dreams, stop and tell yourself something kind, supportive and energizing.

Examples:

  • “Wow, I did it. I walked for 30 minutes. I did just what I said I would do. I’m really happy that I did what I said I would. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “I promised myself I would start using Active/Constructive communication more often, and I did. It felt great and I could see how happy it made . . . it felt good for me too, and I feel proud that I did what I said I was going to do. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “That wasn’t easy, but man doing it felt great!  Come to think of it, “I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “Passing up that piece of pie wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, feels great to be taking better care of myself.  I’m really am good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “Not smoking is killing me, but I feel great to be doing what’s important to me in the long run. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”

5 tips to becoming  your personal congruency champion:

  1. Be specific – include the action you took when you give yourself credit.
  2. Be you – put your supportive statements in your words; they have to sound right to you.
  3. Be positive – always end with the sentence “I’m good at doing what I say I will do.” It took courage, energy and commitment to do what you did, so you are not exaggerating or lying – you are good at it!
  4. Be consistent – try to champion yourself each and every time you do what you say you are going to do. Repetition is important when forming a new habit, and becoming your own congruency champion is new for most folks. So no matter how corny or awkward it feels, do it and keep doing it! Learn to catch yourself doing good, and the verbally reward yourself for doing it.
  5. Be aware– take 30 seconds to savor at least one congruent moment a day.  You can savor the feeling right after you do it, or before you go to sleep at night, or first thing each morning – pick the time that works for you.
    1. Please note: This is an important part of the change process, because walking the walk can be difficult and may not feel uplifting or rewarding on any given day or in any particular moment, but feeling good about doing what you said you were going to do is an empowering elixir, and if you let it, it can change your life – so savor your success.

Change takes change, and for many of us living in accordance with our wishes and giving ourselves credit for doing what we said we were going to do, is new – it’s a change. Achieving change takes support. Becoming your own congruency champion is a great way to give yourself the support you need.

I know you can do it!

“The Happiness Project”: A RARE Approach

As promised, here’s more about Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. I’m reposting and updating my 2010 posts about it each day this week to celebrate the release of her new book “Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life”.

Why I liked the “The Happiness Project”.

1. It was fun to read, had a nice flow to it, and was like listening to an interesting friend.

2. Gretchen had a great way of blending her skills as a researcher with her talents for storytelling.

3. I liked the approach she used to create the life she wanted, which I’m describing as “RARE”.

RARE: Gretchen did her Research, took Action, and time to Review her findings, while remaining Enthusiastic throughout the process. I like that, and think it is pretty RARE for someone to do that in their personal life.

Research

Gretchen conducted two types of informal research – internal and external.

Internal: Gretchen took time to figure out what she cared about – living a fuller life – and what she thought was missing – happiness, well, a deeper, richer happiness.

External: Then she spent time researching the topic – happiness – to find out if there were already answers to the question she was asking herself. Gretchen read everything she could get her hands on related to happiness from “Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah”  (Martin Seligman is known as the “Father of Positive Psychology”. I’m a big fan and have blogged quite a bit about his research.)

Action

The research she did was her first action step; her second action step was organizing what she read and devising a series of “experiments” for herself – she tried all sorts of methods for increasing her happiness; her third step was creating charts to guide and track her progress.

Sounds like a lot of work, and it was, but she made it fun, and as simple as possible. Gretchen knew if she tried to change her life in a haphazard fashion, she wouldn’t see the results she wanted – so she planned, charted and even started a blog. Very cool.

Review

I love this part of her approach. Gretchen reviewed what worked and what didn’t work for her, and then made adjustments when needed instead of abandoning her efforts. She didn’t throw in the towel, or throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead, she reduced her self-incriminations and ramped-up the getting-back-on-the-horse and the back-into-the-ring approaches.

She never gave-up, she simply gave herself feedback and listened to it!

And, last but certainly not least, Gretchen remained . . .

Enthusiastic

She celebrated her successes – big or small – and rewarded  herself along the way. The celebrations and rewards kept her enthusiasm high, and allowed more time for positive results to develop, which improved her life and gave her the energy she needed to keep going.

I’m not saying she never felt disillusioned, she did and explained when and why in her book with humor and engaging humility, but she did not let those feelings stop her.

Gretchen put her time in, paid her dues, and committed to the process. She plotted and planned, which is a good strategy for any type of change. Plotting and planning almost always makes the process more valuable to us. The more effort we expend, the more we value the process and the more we tend to want to make it to the finish line.

Gretchen used a RARE, year-long approach to finding happiness, and it worked!

Ready to begin your own “happiness project”? Contact life coach Patrice Koerper to get started.

Happy is as happy does. 

Communicating with heart

heart-968777_640At one of my Wishful Thinking Women gatherings this weekend we talked about a wonderful way to improve communication with those you love, care about or work with. I first shared this post in 2011, and after talking about it on Saturday, I thought now would be a great time to re-post it. Enjoy!

Would you like to improve your relationships with your kids, your spouse, significant other, friends, extended family and co-workers?

If so, try the method Dr. Martin Seligman describes in his latest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Seligman is the father of positive psychology and in Flourish he discusses PERMA, the 5 pillars of well-being:

P – Positive emotion (happiness, fun, gratitude);

E – Engagement (flow – loosing ourselves or becoming completely absorbed in our work, our hobbies, or the moment);

R – Relationships (those that touch our hearts, our souls and our minds);

M – Meaning (a sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives) and

A – Accomplishment (learning and moving forward with endeavors big and small and knowing and using your strengths).

Today, I’m focusing on only one aspect of PERMA – Relationships, and how to create better connections.

Dr. Shelly Gable, a researcher and professor of social psychology at UCSB, took a positive psychology approach to love and marriage research and discovered that how couples celebrate the good times, is a stronger indicator of the strength and resiliency of relationships than how they fight or deal with negative situations. This might not seem like a big deal, but for decades psychologists have been researching and trying to fix conflict or breaks in relationships rather than focusing on what make them stronger.

“Shelly Gable turns all this on its head. She is one of the few who work on what makes a marriage great, and her work holds a crucial lesson for all of us who want to transform a good relationship—marriage, parent, or friendship—into an excellent one.”

Gable developed the chart below to show and categorize how people communicate in response to good news. Read the chart and decide where the majority of your responses fall. (Be honest – awareness is the first step of change!)

Next, observe yourself in action this week to see if your reactions fall squarely where you think they do. If you discover that your actions are not speaking as constructively as you would like, follow these steps and in no time you will be seeing positive results.

  1. Pay attention. Let the person who is talking to you “see” that you are listening. Look them in the eye, turn your body toward them. Smile, laugh, touch them.
  2. Say something positive: “Oh, Susan, that is wonderful.” “I’m so excited for you.” or whatever words work for you. Let your choice of words and the way you say them show your excitement.
  3. Ask questions: “When did you get the good news?” “How did you find out?” And, then follow-up with a sincere “Tell me all the details.” or “You must have been so excited, tell me all about it.” Any words that show your honest interest are the perfect words. You don’t need to overdo it, just ask and then listen – actively. Stay involved in the conversation so the person you care about, can share and savor the good news with you. Let the conversation be all about them.
  4. Suggest a way to celebrate. “Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate.” “Let’s open a bottle of wine.” Let’s go to the movies.” “Let’s . . . ” simply fill in whatever you know the person or child would really enjoy.

If you’re involved in a conversation and you realize that you aren’t responding as you would like, no problem. Simply stop and ask for a do-over. Say something like “You know what, I don’t think I’m being as positive as I can be about your good news, can we start over?” And then, do it. Your listener may be surprised, but will appreciate it.

Active/Constructive communication works so well, you may notice immediate results. Seligman shares a wonderful story in his book about an Army sergeant, who began actively and constructively responding to his young son and reported “about halfway through the conversation, my son interrupted me and said, “Dad, is this really you?” The sergeant’s new approach made his son uneasy at first, but within a few minutes the happiness in the boy’s voice shared just how much his Dad’s attention and approval meant to him. (Seligman has designed and iimplemented a very successful resiliency program for all Army personal, which includes the concept of PERMA.)

Give active/constructive communication a try, and let us know how it works.

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The perfect one-liner

Other Wishful Thinking Works posts you might enjoy . . .

Remembering friends real and otherwise

Where are you sitting on the tree of life?

Active, Constructive

For Wishful Thinking Works services that can enrich your life, click here.

Remembering friends real and otherwise

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking Works Reading Characters

Have you ever read a book where the characters were so real that you missed them when their story ended? Or, found yourself thinking about them days after you’ve closed the book on their lives?

I love that feeling. It’s warm and fuzzy, and a lot like a good friendship.

Why not take a moment this week to let your real friends know how much they mean to you? Send a special FB message, write a short email, send a card, or pick-up the phone. It will only take a minute or two, and will no doubt make their day and yours. Positive psychology research shows that maintaining relationships is an important part of a happy life. In a variety of studies close, confiding relationships were correlated with happiness and well-being.

Friendships matters. People feel better and do better when they have at least a few people in their lives they can trust and confide in. Sounds elementary, but the truth is, many folks are walking around the playground of life without anyone to play with, and they’re not as happy as they could be!

If you want to do a bit more to show someone in your life how much you appreciate them, consider writing them a gratitude letter. It’s free, doctor-tested (Ph. D. Docs, that is), and taught in positive psychology classes at universities around the world! I’ve adapted this practice a bit for Mother’s Day and will be sending a dear friend’s Mom a note thanking her for raising such a wonderful daughter. Last year I received a sweet FB message from a friend wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day and sharing what a good Mom she thought I was; I will never forget her kindness or her thoughts. Get creative and enhance your relationships!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy some great summer reads. I recently finished Sherri Coner’s “Forever the Willows”  – it’s all about friendships, and I’m still missing Jen, Babby, Ivy and Bizzie!

Other Wishful Thinking Works posts you might enjoy . . .

Building a solid support system

Active, Constructive

Gratitude, happiness, a road trip and a wedding

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Guidelines for living from a very valuable perspective

Today’s post truly is about how we live, but I did take my cues directly from Susie Steiner’s online article in the Guardian about Australian-born palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware and Ware’s book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.

You see, after numerous, but unfulfilling, adventurous twists and turns in her life, Ware spent time taking care of folks who were dying. Those experiences led her to blogging and eventually to sharing the thoughts and regrets of those she was helping, along with her personal journey, in her book.

Both her work and their thoughts are touching and valuable, which led me to turn them into “Guidelines for Life”, since all of us reading them still have time to act on them!

Here are my “Guidelines for Life” fashioned from the”The Top Five Regrets” Ware shared in her book and Steiner outlined in her article.

  1. Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not one shaped by that others expect of you.  Not doing so is the number one regret Ware reported in her book.
  2. Don’t focus time and energy on your career to the exclusion of your children, spouse or significant other. Ware notes that this was one of the top regrets of men. (Most of the folks Ware nursed were from a generation in which men were the primary breadwinners.)
  3. Find the courage to express your feelings. Don’t keep silent about issues and people who truly matter to you; let folks know you care and where you stand. Silence can lead to confusion, resentment, and bitterness.
  4. Stay in touch with your friends. Continue to seek ways and find the time to connect with those your care about throughout your entire life.
  5. Let yourself be happy, even silly. Happiness is a choice, choose it.

For tips on how to craft your life around courage, being true to yourself, and creating rich and rewarding relationships browse through the past Wishful Thinking Works posts or start following Wishful Thinking Works today. No reason to live a life of regret, when creating the life you really want is always an option.

Wishful Thinking Works life coaching can help you build the life you truly want.

Having a coach in your corner, is a great way to quickly move forward with the changes you want to make in your life.

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Thanksgiving all year long

Happy Thanksgiving! I thought today was a great day to share with you this wonderful post by Amit Amin from his blog “Happier Human”. As you know, I usually write the Wishful Thinking Works posts, but since this is a holiday extra and I’m so thankful that Amit has gathered such a fantastic collection of facts and figures about “How Gratitude  Can Change Your Life”, I thought I would share it with you.

I hope you enjoy it whether you read it today, tomorrow, over the weekend or in the weeks ahead. I know gratitude works, because even though I am thousands of miles from my family my heart is full with the kindness of my friends here and the knowledge that Peace Corps has brought us together again!

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About:

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

by Amit Amin

Do you want more from your life?

More happiness? Better health? Deeper relationships? Increased productivity?

What if I told you that just one thing can help you in all of those areas?

An Attitude of Gratitude

What the heck? Gratitude? Is this a Christian blog?

No. I’m not even religious. When I first started looking into gratitude, I wasn’t expecting much.

I was wrong:

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude

Seriously? All that? Yes. This list of benefits was compiled by aggregating the results of more than 40 research studies on gratitude.

1. Gratitude makes us happier.

A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent.a1,a2,a3 That’s 2.5x the impact of winning more than $1,000,000 in the lottery!a4

How does a free five minute activity do what $1,000,000+ can’t? Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career.

Sure, $1,000,000 is pretty awesome, but because of hedonic adaption we quickly get used to the money and stop having as much fun and happiness as we did at first.

How can 5 minutes a day have such a large impact?

Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude.

This is why a five-minute a week gratitude journal can make us so much happier. The actual gratitude produced during those five minutes is small, but the emotions of gratitude felt during those five-minutes are enough to trigger a grateful mood.

While in a grateful mood, we will feel gratitude more frequently, when we do feel gratitude it will be more intense and held for longer, and we will feel gratitude for more things at the same time.

In five words – gratitude triggers positive feedback loops.

Hedonic what?

After repeated exposure to the same emotion-producing stimulus, we tend to experience less of the emotion. Put more simply, we get use to the good things that happen to us. This also means that we get use to the bad things that happen to us. Those who have been disabled have a remarkable ability to rebound – initially they may feel terrible, but after months or years they are on average just as happy as everyone else.

Hedonic adaption gives unparalleled resiliency, and keeps us motivated to achieve ever greater things. It also kills our marriages – we get use to our amazing spouse (or kids, or job, or house, or car, or game). We stop seeing as much positive and start complaining. It is a psychological imperative to fight hedonic adaption if we want to maximize happiness. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal.

Why does it take several months?

In all relevant studies, changes occurred slowly. It took several months of continuous practice for the largest benefits to appear. This is for two reasons:

  1. Cultivating gratitude is a skill. After three months of practice, I now have the ability to self-generate slight feelings of gratitude and happiness on command. With more time and practice, I expect the intensity and duration of the generated feelings to increase.
  2. Gratitude is a personality trait. Some people have more grateful personalities than others. Daily gratitude practice can change our personality, but that takes a long time.

2. Gratitude makes people like us.

Gratitude generates social capital – in two studies with 243 total participants, those who were 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital.b1

Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.b2

Bonus question: Is that first picture actually of me? Hm… I wonder…

Answer:

Obviously not. I’m a handsome, healthy, and popular young man. I would never be working alone in the dark on my computer writing a blog post.

3. Gratitude makes us healthier.

Check it out:

Health Benefits of Gratitude: Improved Sleep, Fitness, Mental Health, and More

There is even reason to believe gratitude can extend your lifespan by a few months or even years.f2,f3,f4

4. Gratitude boosts our career.

Gratitude makes you a more effective manager,c1,c2 helps you network, increases your decision making capabilities, increases your productivity, and helps you get mentors and proteges.b1 As a result, gratitude helps you achieve your career goals, as well as making your workplace a more friendly and enjoyable place to be.a2, b2

Do you think this is effective?

I’m not suggesting that criticism and self-focus don’t have a place in the workplace, but I think we’re overdoing it.

65% of Americans didn’t receive recognition in the workplace last year.c3

5. Gratitude strengthens our emotions.

Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.b2,d1,d2,d3

6. Gratitude develops our personality.

It really does, and in potentially life-changing ways.a2,b2,d2,e1,e2

Personality Benefits, Like Optimism and Less Materialism, of Gratitude

If you’re a man, don’t worry; gratitude won’t transform you into a woman.

Convinced of the benefits? Read this post: How Grateful Are You? Interactive Quiz + Seven Strategies for Cultivating Gratitude

Not convinced? Want to know the details or explore the science that backs up these claims? Click below to go to the specific category or benefit that interests you, or just continue scrolling.

Click here to jump to the comments section.

Personality

7. Gratitude makes us more optimistic.Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism. Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years.f1,f2,f3,f4 I’d say a 5 minute a day gratitude journal would be worth it just for this benefit.

Show me the science.

  • In one study of keeping a weekly gratitude journal, participants showed a 5% increase in optimism.a2
  • In another study, keeping a daily gratitude journal resulted in a 15% increase in optimism.a2
  • Optimism is significantly correlated with gratitude (r=.51).e2 The above studies show that it isn’t just correlation – increasing one’s level of gratitude increases one’s level of optimism.
How does gratitude increase optimism?
The act of gratitude is the act of focusing on the good in life. If we perceive our current life to have more good, we will also believe our future life to have more good. Optimism is correlated with gratitude because those with an optimistic disposition are biologically more likely to focus on the good (gratitude) than on the bad (personal disappointment, anxiety, etc…).

8. Gratitude reduces materialism.

Materialism is strongly correlated with reduced well-being and increased rates of mental disorder.g1 There’s nothing wrong with wanting more. The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude, reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life, generates negative emotions, and makes them more self-centered.g1,g2,g3

Why is materialism negatively correlated with happiness and well-being?

The pursuit of wealth and power has been shown in dozens of studies to be a highly inefficient method of increasing well-being and happiness. To be sure, if your income doubles you will be slightly happier. But how much effort do you think is involved in doubling your income? How many sacrifices are required? Motivational speakers will tell you that the money is worth the sacrifices. I disagree.

Applying that same level of energy towards strengthening one’s relationships, cultivating compassion and gratitude, and so on much more reliably creates positive, transformative change.

Said differently, material success is not a very important factor in the happiness of highly grateful people.

How does gratitude reduce materialism?

Materialism flows from two sources: role models and insecurity.

  1. Americans are inundated with materialistic role models every day: from advertisements which highlight materialistic themes, to celebrity culture which glorifies the rich and frivolous, to business culture in which we are told our dreams should be to be rich and powerful. Gratitude helps by reducing our tendency to compare ourselves to those with a higher social status.
  2. Those who are insecure, that is, those that have not had their basic psychological needs met (e.g. those who lack confidence, come from a poor background, or had unsupportive parents), are more likely to be materialistic. Gratitude is an effective strategy for reducing insecurity. A grateful emotion is triggered when we perceive an act of benevolence directed towards us.  Those who are dispositionally ungrateful are therefore less likely to perceive acts of benevolence, even if they are surrounded by a loving environment. Flipped around, those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude are more likely to perceive an environment of benevolence, which in turn causes their brains to assume they are in an environment full of social support, which in turn kills insecurity and materialism.
Will gratitude make me lazy?

Those who are more materialistic are more likely to relentlessly pursue wealth. So while gratitude won’t make you lazy, over your lifetime you may end up earning less money. You will instead re-focus on other things. You may, for example, spend time with friends, family, and your hobbies. That’s a good thing.

Regret #2: Working too hard.

Gratitude has caused me to focus less on things that don’t matter, like making money, and more on the things that do, like my family and this blog. I think that’s a good thing.

9. Gratitude increases spiritualism.

Spiritual transcendence is highly correlated with feelings of gratitude. That is – the more spiritual you are, the more likely you are to be grateful.

This is for two reasons:

  1. All major religions espouse gratitude as a virtue.h1
  2. Spirituality spontaneously gives rise to grateful behavior.

I believe the opposite to also be true, that gratitude spontaneously gives rise to spiritual attribution, helping one feel closer to God or other religious entities. I am irreligious, and have found gratitude practices to make my spiritual position difficult – those moments when I feel intense gratitude make me want to believe in a benevolent God. My solution has been to re-direct my feelings towards Lady Luck.

Why does spirituality give rise to grateful behavior?

Many of the sub-traits associated with spirituality are the same sub-traits associated with gratitude. For example, spiritual individuals are more likely to feel a strong spiritual or emotional connection with others, and to believe in inter-connectedness. Both are prerequisites for feeling gratitude – someone who feels weak connections with others, and who believes in the illusion of self-sufficiency is unlikely to feel gratitude.

10. Gratitude makes us less self-centered.

I’ll be totally honest, I’m a self-centered twat. I’m a lot better now that I’ve brought gratitude into my life, but I still spend way too much time thinking about myself, and too little thinking about others. I expect this to change – because of my compassion and gratitude practices I am starting to have spontaneous urges to help others.

This is because the very nature of gratitude is to focus on others (on their acts of benevolence). In this regard, gratitude practice can be better than self-esteem therapy. Self-esteem therapy focuses the individual back on themselves: I’m smart, I look good, I can succeed, etc….

That can work, but it can also make us narcissistic or even back-fire and lower self-esteem.i1

11. Gratitude increases self-esteem.

Imagine a world where no one helps you. Despite your asking and pleading, no one helps you.

Now imagine a world where many people help you all of the time for no other reason than that they like you. In which world do you think you would have more self-esteem? Gratitude helps to create a world like that.

How does gratitude create a more supportive social dynamic?

Gratitude does this in two ways:

  1. Gratitude has been shown in multiple studies to make people kinder and more friendly, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are actually more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated.
  2. Gratitude increases your recognition of benevolence. For example, a person with low self-esteem may view an act of kindness with a skeptical eye, thinking that the benefactor is trying to get something from them. A grateful person would take the kindness at face value, believing themselves to be a person worthy of receiving no-strings-attached kindness.

Health

12. Gratitude improves your sleep.

Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. Said differently, gratitude can help with  insomnia.a2,j1

The key is what’s on our minds as we’re trying to fall asleep. If it’s worries about the kids, or anxiety about work, the level of stress in our body will increase, reducing sleep quality, keeping us awake, and cutting our sleep short.

If it’s thinking about a few things we have to be grateful for today, it will induce the relaxation response, knock us out, and keep us that way.

Yes – gratitude is a (safe and free) sleep aid.

I don’t believe you!

In one study of 65 subjects with a chronic pain condition, those who were assigned a daily gratitude journal to be completed at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group.a2

In another study of 400 healthy people, those participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test also had significantly better sleep. They reported faster time to sleep, improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration, and less difficulty staying awake during the day.j1 This is not because their life was simply better – levels of gratitude are more dependent on personality and life perspective than on life situation.

13. Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor.

Gratitude can’t cure cancer (neither can positive-thinking), but it can strengthen your physiological functioning.

Positive emotion improves health. The details are complicated, but the overall picture is not – if you want to improve your health, improve your mind. This confidence comes from 137 research studies.

Gratitude is a positive emotion. It’s no far stretch that some of the benefits (e.g. better coping & management of terminal conditions like cancer and HIV,k1,k2 faster recovery from certain medical procedures, positive changes in immune system functioning,k3 more positive health behavior,k4,k5 etc…) apply to gratitude as well.

In fact, some recent science shows just that – those who engage in gratitude practices have been shown to feel less pain, go to the doctor less often, have lower blood pressure, and be less likely to develop a mental disorder.a1,a2,k6

How does gratitude improve my health?

The science on how is still unclear. Here are two ideas:

  • Gratitude reduces levels of stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Stress in turn has been shown to disrupt healthy body functioning (e.g disrupting the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, the immune system, our sleep, etc…).
  • Gratitude encourages pro-health behavior like exercising and paying attention to health risks.

14. Gratitude lets you live longer.

I will be honest with you – by combining the results of a few different studies I’m confident that gratitude can extend lifespan, but no single study as yet has actually proven this claim.

Here is what we know: optimism and positive emotion in general have been used to successfully predict mortality decades later.f2,f3,f4 The optimistic lived a few years longer than the pessimistic. A few years may not sound like much, but I know when I’m about to die I’d like to have a few more years!

We also know that gratitude is strongly correlated with positive emotion. So, gratitude –> positive emotion –> an extra few months or years on earth. With positive psychology research on the rise, I believe we can expect this claim to be rigorously tested within the next five to ten years.

15. Gratitude increase your energy levels.

Gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated – the grateful are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor.

Show me the data.

  • Study of 238 people found a correlation of .46 between vitality and gratitude.e2
  • Study of 1662 people found a correlation of .38 between vitality and gratitude. Same study found correlations above .3 even after controlling for the levels of: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and perceived social desirability.e2   This means that vitality and gratitude are strongly correlated even after considering the possibility that they are correlated because high-energy people and high-gratitude people share personality traits like extroversion in common.
Do people with more energy tend to experience more gratitude, does gratitude lead to increased energy, or is something else going on?

I believe it’s two of those three:

  1. People with high levels of vitality tend to have some of the same traits that highly grateful people do, like high levels of optimism and life satisfaction.
  2. Gratitude increases physical and mental well-being, which in turn increases energy levels.

16. Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise.

In one 11-week study of 96 Americans, those who were instructed to keep a weekly gratitude journal exercised 40 minutes more per week than the control group.a2 No other study has yet to replicate these results. It could be because other gratitude studies testing this effect have been much shorter – in the range of one to three weeks, or it could be because this result was a fluke.

Once again, time will tell – but it would not surprise me if being grateful for one’s health would increase one’s tendency to want to protect it by exercising more.

Emotional

17. Gratitude helps us bounce back.

Those that have more gratitude have a more pro-active coping style, are more likely to have and seek out social support in times of need, are less likely to develop PTSD, and are more likely to grow in times of stress.b1,b2,d1

In others words, they are more resilient.

18. Gratitude makes us feel good.

Surprise, surprise: gratitude actually feels good. Yet only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive and constructive emotion (compared to 50% of Europeans).l1

According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the fact to have been caused by the kindness of others.  Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!

That’s no surprise – we idealize the illusion of self-sufficiency. Gratitude, pah! That’s for the weak.

F&ck no it’s not. Gratitude feels good, and if the benefits on this page are any indication – gratitude will make you stronger, healthier, and more successful.

Are you afraid to admit that luck, God, family members, friends, and/or strangers have and will continue to strongly influence your life? I once was – not only was I less happy, I was also weaker. It takes strength to admit to the truth of inter-dependency.

19. Gratitude makes our memories happier.

Our memories are not set in stone, like data stored on a hard-drive. There are dozens of ways our memories get changed over time – we remember things as being worse than they actually were, as being longer or shorter, people as being kinder or crueler, as being more or less interesting, and so on.

Experiencing gratitude in the present makes us more likely to remember positive memories,m1 and actually transforms some of our neutral or even negative memories into positive ones.m2 In one study, putting people into a grateful mood helped them find closure of upsetting open memories.m2 During these experiences, participants were more likely to recall positive aspects of the memory than usual, and some of the negative and neutral aspects were transformed into positives.

What’s going on with my memory!?

It’s called cognitive biases. Here are two great books on the subject: Thinking, Fast and Slow (written by the founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman), and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).

20. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy.

A small bit of jealousy or envy directed at the right target is motivating. Too much produces feelings of insecurity, materialism, inferiority, distrust, and unhappiness.

How does gratitude reduce feelings of envy?

The personality trait of envy has a correlation of -.39 with the personality trait of gratitude. In addition, on days when people experience more gratitude, they are also more likely to experience less envy.e2

This is likely because an attitude of envy and an attitude of gratitude are largely incompatible. Just like it is impossible to feel optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, gratitude is the act of perceiving benevolence, while envy and jealousy is the act of perceiving inadequacy. Benevolence and inadequacy cannot be completely perceived at the same time.

21. Gratitude helps us relax.

Gratitude and positive emotion in general are among the strongest relaxants known to man. I was having trouble sleeping a few nights ago because I was too stressed and couldn’t relax. I’ll be honest, for the few minutes that I was able to hold feelings of gratitude I almost fell asleep, but holding feelings of gratitude is hard! In this case, too hard – I ended up getting out of bed.

Gratitude may be just as or even more effective than relaxation methods such as deep breathing, but because it is also more difficult, is unfeasible as an actual relaxation technique. Think of it like tea – one or two cups help you relax – three of four make you want to empty your bladder.   But it could just be me. Perhaps you’ll find practices of gratitude more natural and easy.

Social

22. Gratitude makes you friendlier.

Multiple studies have shown that gratitude induces pro-social behavior. Keeping a gratitude journal is enough to make you more likely to help others with their problems and makes you more likely to offer them emotional support.a2,b1

Why?

There are two main reasons.

  1. Gratitude helps us perceive kindness, which we have a natural tendency to want to reciprocate. Without the feeling of gratitude, we may not recognize when someone is helping us (the same way anger lets us know when someone is trying to harm us).
  2. Gratitude makes us happier and more energetic, both of which are highly linked to pro-social behavior.

23. Gratitude helps your marriage.

I’ve never been married, but from what I’ve heard, read, and seen, one way marriages start to suffer is that when the passion starts to fizzle, the partners become less appreciative and more naggy.

Scientists have put numbers to our intuition and experience, creating an appreciation to naggy ratio. More formally called the Losada ratio, it divides the total number of positive expressions (support, encouragement and appreciation) made during a typical interaction by the number of negative expressions (disapproval, sarcasm, and cynicism).

When the ratio was below .9, that is there were 11% more negative expressions than positive expressions, marriages plummeted towards divorce or languishment. Those marriages that lasted and were found satisfying were those with a positivity ratio above 5.1 (five positive expressions to each negative).s1

Building regular practices of gratitude into your marriage is an easy but effective way of raising your positivity ratio.

Correlation or causality?

Does the positivity ratio actually change the dynamics of a marriage, or does it simply reflect underlying happiness or conflict? Would ‘faking’ a higher positivity ratio actually change the dynamics of your marriage, or would it be the same as faking your income on a survey – it may let you temporarily feel better, but it doesn’t actually make you any richer?

There is reason to believe it is both. What we say and how we act becomes who we are. Faking a smile has been shown to actually make people happier. But the effect is only so strong. I believe that for gratitude to truly effect a marriage, it must come from the heart. With enough practice and effort, it can.

P.S. You shouldn’t take the numbers too literally. A good rule of thumb is three or four positives for each negative means you’re doing well.

24. Gratitude makes you look good.

Ingratitude is universally regarded with contempt.  It’s opposite, gratitude, is considered a virtue in all major religions and most modern cultures. It may not be sexy to be grateful, but people will respect you for it.

Gratitude is not the same thing as indebtedness, which we rightly avoid. Indebtedness is a negative emotion which carries an assumption of repayment.

Gratitude is not the same thing as weakness. Weakness is flattery or subservience.

Gratitude is the acknowledgment of kindness with thanks.

It takes big balls to acknowledge that we didn’t get to where we are all on our own – that without others we may never have made it. That’s why, just maybe, gratitude may be sexy too.

25. Gratitude helps you make friends.

When I was in college I found it really easy to make new friends. If I hadn’t moved out of NYC it would still be easy – living in a farm town makes it difficult. I’ve found an effective way to start a conversation or move a relationship forward is an expression of gratitude, “thank you for that coffee, it was super delicious.” *wink, wink*

Ah, my mistake – that’s actually what I use to hit on my barista.

But you get the point.

26. Gratitude deepens friendships.

I have one friend who always deeply thanks me for taking the time to see her. That makes me feel appreciated and that makes me feel good. Wouldn’t it make you feel good too?

Career

27. Gratitude makes you a more effective manager.

Effective management requires a toolbox of skills. Criticism comes all too easily to most, while the ability to feel gratitude and express praise is often lacking.

Timely, sincere, specific, behavior focused praise is often a more powerful method of influencing change than criticism. Specifically, multiple studies have found expressions of gratitude to be highly motivating, while expressions of criticism to be slightly de-motivating but providing more expectation clarification.t1,t2

Contrary to expectation, if praise is moderate and behavior focused, repeat expressions of gratitude will not lose their impact, and employee performance will increase.2

Because of our culture, expressions of gratitude are often difficult to give – cultivating an attitude of gratitude will help.

I’ve seen firsthand the powerful difference between interacting with subordinates more with praise, and interacting with some more with criticism. Those I’ve given more praise are more enthusiastic about working with me, express more creativity, and are so much more fun to work with.

More Info: The Science of Praise: A Manager’s Guide To Giving Effective Employee Praise

28. Gratitude helps you network.

Gratitude has been shown across a number of studies to increase social behavior. Two longitudinal studies showed that those with higher levels of gratitude actually developed more social capital than those with lower levels.

Gratitude helps you get mentors, protégés, and benefactors.

Those who are more grateful are more likely to help others, and to pay it forward, that is, to take on mentoring relationships. But I’m guessing you care more about getting help from mentors and benefactors than being a mentor yourself. Well, that makes sense – having one or more mentors dramatically increases one’s success rate.

The first level is simple – those who are grateful are more social and also more likely to ask for help. But it goes one step further – we all ask for help at one time, one of the key differences between one-off help and establishing a mentoring relationship is gratitude.

Flipped around, what is it that makes a person want to help you on a continuous basis? Gratitude – when their wisdom, experience, and time are well appreciated, mentors will find enjoyment from the process, continuing to help you for weeks, months, or years.

29. Gratitude increases your goal achievement.

In one study, participants were asked to write down those goals which they wished to accomplish over the next two months. Those who were instructed to keep a gratitude journal reported more progress on achieving their goals at the end of the study. One result doesn’t make science – what you should take away from this is that, at the least, gratitude will not make you lazy and passive. It might even do the opposite!

30. Gratitude improves your decision making.

Decision making is really tiring – so tiring that we automate to our subconscious much of the reasoning that goes behind making a decision. Even for the most basic of decisions, like where to go eat, there are dozens of variables to consider: how much time and money do I want to spend, what cuisine would I like today, am I willing to travel far, what should I get once I get there, and so on. If you deliberated on each of these decisions one at a time, your mind would be overwhelmed.

The problem gets even worse for more complex decisions like making a diagnosis.

In one study, doctors were given a list of ailments from a hypothetical patient and also given a misleading piece of information—that the patient had been diagnosed at another hospital as having lupus. Half the doctors had gratitude evoked by giving them a token of appreciation. Those who did not receive a token of appreciation were more likely to stick with the incorrect diagnosis of lupus; those who did receive the gratitude were energized to expend more energy and to pay their gratitude forward onto their patient. They also considered a wider range of treatment options.

The above study shows that gratitude motivates improved decision making. Those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude find tokens of appreciation every day, on their own.

31. Gratitude increases your productivity.

Those who are insecure have difficulty focusing because many of their mental resources are tied up with their worries. On the other hand, those who are highly confident are able to be more productive, because they can direct more of their focus towards their work. This operates at both a conscious and subconscious level – we may be getting mentally distracted by our worries, or more commonly, parts of our subconscious mind are expending energy to suppress negative information and concerns.z1

As gratitude has been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce insecurity, this means that it can help us focus and improve our productivity.

Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a massively underutilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness.

References
a1. Positive Psychology Progress (2005, Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C.)
a2. Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life
a3. Gratitude Uniquely Predicts Satisfaction with Life: Incremental Validity Above the Domains and Facets of the Five Factor Model
a4. The Effects of Winning The Lottery on Happiness, Life Satisfaction, and Mood
b1. The Role of Gratitude in The Development of Social Support, Stress, and Depression: Two Longitudinal Studies
b2. Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need to Know
c1. Stone, D. I., & Stone, E. F. (1983). The Effects of Feedback Favorability and Feedback Consistency. Academy Of Management Proceedings (00650668), 178-182. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.1983.4976341
c2. Jaworski, B. J., & Kohl, A. K. (1991). Supervisory Feedback: Alternative Types and Their Impact on Salespeople’s Performance and Satisfaction. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 28(2), 190-201.
c3. This number has been floating around the internet, but I was actually unable to find the original source. It may be wrong, or I may not have looked in the right places.
d1. Coping Style as a Psychological Resource of Grateful People
d2. Positive Responses to Benefit and Harm: Bringing Forgiveness and Gratitude into Cognitive Psychotherapy
d3. Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain: Links of Grateful Moods to Individual Differences and Daily Emotional Experience
e1. Is Gratitude an Alternative to Materialism?
e2. The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography
f1. C. Peterson, L. Bossio. “Optimism and Physical Wellbeing.” Optimism & Pessimism: Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice. Ed. E. Chang. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001: 127-145.
f2. Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings From The Nun Study
f3. Optimistics vs. Pessimists Survival Rate Among Medical Patients Over a 30-Year Period
f4. Prediction of All-Cause Mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale Scores: Study of a College Sample During a 40-Year Follow-up Period.
g1. Kashdan, T. B., & Breen, W. E. (2007). MATERIALISM AND DIMINISHED WELL-BEING: EXPERIENTIAL AVOIDANCE AS A MEDIATING MECHANISM. Journal Of Social & Clinical Psychology, 26(5), 521-539.
g2. Belk  ,   R. W.     (  1985  ).   Materialism: Trait aspects of  living in the material world  .    Journal of Consumer Research,     12,    265  –  280
g3. Sheldon  ,   K. M.  , &     Kasser  ,   T.     (  1995  ).   Coherence and  congruence: Two aspects of personality integration  .    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68,    531 543  .
h1. Emmons RA, Crumpler CA. Gratitude as human strength: Appraising the evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2000;19:849–857.
i1. Spinney, L. (2012). All about ME. New Scientist, 214(2862), 44-47.
j1. Gratitude Influences Sleep Through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions
k1. Benight C, Bandura A. Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: The role of perceived self efficacy. Behav Res Ther. 2004; 42(10): 1129–1148 [serial online].
k2. Stanton A, Snider P. Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis: A prospective study. Health Psychol. 1993; 12(1): 16–23 [serial online].
k3. Segerstrom S, Taylor S, Kemeny M, Fahey J. Optimism is associated with mood, coping and immune change in response to stress. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998; 74(6): 1646–1655 [serial online].
k4. Taylor SE, Kemeny ME, Aspinwall LG, Schneider SG, Rodriguez R, Herbert M. Optimism, coping, psychological distress, and high-risk sexual behavior among men at risk for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992; 63: 460–473.
k5. Giltay EJ, Geleijnse JM, Zitman FG, Buijsse B, Kromhout D. Lifestyle and dietary correlates of dispositional optimism in men: The Zutphen Elderly Study. J Psychosom Res. 2007; 63: 483–490.
k6. Gratitude: Effects on Perspective and Blood Pressure (2007)
l1. Emotion and Social Context: An American—German Comparison
m1. Watkins, P.C., D.L. Grimm and R. Kolts: 2004, #Counting your blessings:
Positive memories among grateful persons#, Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social 23, pp. 52–67.
m2. Watkins, P. C., Cruz, L., Holben, H., & Kolts, R. L. (2008). Taking Care of Business?  Grateful Processing of Unpleasant Memories. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 87-99.
s1. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678
t1. Stone, D. I., & Stone, E. F. (1983). The Effects of Feedback Favorability and Feedback Consistency. Academy Of Management Proceedings (00650668), 178-182. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.1983.4976341
t2. Jaworski, B. J., & Kohl, A. K. (1991). Supervisory Feedback: Alternative Types and Their Impact on Salespeople’s Performance and Satisfaction.  Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 28(2), 190-201.
z1. What Neuroscience Reveals about the Nature of Business. Jeffrey L. Fannin, Ph.D. and  Robert M. Williams, M.A.

Camp, coffee bags, creativity and confidence

I’ve been having an absolutely fantastic week. Today is the last day of  Wishful Thinking Works’ “Camp Summer Girls”, which I presented for 11 girls aged 9-12 at our local Yacht Club as part of our city’s Parks & Rec. Summer Program. We did all kinds of creative, confidence-building fun stuff for two hours a day. I’m going to miss the girls big time; they are so much FUN!

We had a great field stone-walled room all to ourselves where the girls built a “campfire” each day. In the true summer-camp tradition we selected new names for ourselves, which combined our current likes with our future aspirations; samples include:  “She who loves to read and heal people.”  “She who loves sing.” “She who loves to run fast and heal animals.”

We also created an internal “beauty pageant”, which spotlighted how amazing and awesome each girl is; posters that showed how we are connected to family, friends and our communities; and today we will be making vision boards to showcase our dreams. We did Reader’s Theater – the girls loved putting their costumes together and the drama of being on “stage”. And, each girl took time studying her beautiful face in a mirror and within fifteen minutes was able to do a wonderful drawing of what she saw!

We had a “Project Runway Day”, which was a huge hit. The girls created outfits from burlap bags that had been used to import coffee from around the world – the bags were bigger than the girls, but they found creative ways to use them to make skirts, vests, purses, and head bands! We had lots of recycled scarfs, belts, jewelry, and clothes on hand for the girls to use to transform their coffee bag creations. 

On the first day, most of the girls arrived hesitant and shyly smiling but by week’s end they were talking, laughing and greeting new friends as they walked through the door. It was great to see them having so much fun and trying new things. The girls’ energy and enthusiasm are contagious, I feel like a “Camp Summer Girl” myself.  

Thanks to my teen helper for the week, Brooke, who was amazingly awesome, and to my friend Linda, who was so sweet to be on hand to help with the girls’ Project Runway creations. Special thanks to Brooke’s mom, Julie, for sharing her wonderful daughter and for donating lots of clothes to the cause. Additional thanks go to my dear friend Nellie for the closet cleaning she did to provide goodies for the girls costumes and creations, and for sharing her music and machine. And, to Amy from our Coffee Meetup, who gathered clothes for the girls, as well. You are all are wonderful, and the girls loved having so many choices to work with.

Thanks to the Moms and Dads who created and shared the amazingly awesome girls, I was lucky enough to work with this week! And, to the Camp Summer Girls – thanks for being who you are, because you are  creative, talented, smart and amazingly awesome. Have a wonderful summer and a fantastic school year. 

 

Here is an article I wrote when I started thinking about presenting the Camp. Please feel free to share it with your friends and family.

Patrice Koerper’s Six Summertime Self-Esteem Building Steps for Your Child

Summer is a great time to build your child’s self-esteem. A child’s self-confidence impacts many aspects of his or her development, including school performance. Building or reinforcing your child’s self-esteem now, when the daily pressure of school and interacting with friends and teachers is reduced, will give him or her a great start when school begins.

These six steps can help you, help your child:

Step 1 – Compliment

Think positive! Write down ten things about each of your children that you absolutely love. Include aspects of their personality, emotions, physical being, character, or talents. Then select seven of these attributes, including at least one from each category, and thoughtfully compliment each child, daily for seven days on a different trait.

Pause after you compliment your children, let what you’ve shared sink in and give them a chance to respond. Then hug them, squeeze their hand, tousle their hair and move on. No need to suggest they say “thank you”, your compliment is the important thing.

Step 2 – Develop an Appreciative Attitude

At dinnertime or when tucking your children into bed at night, ask them to share one thing from the day that made them happy, feel good, or they are thankful for. Start the process by talking about something that made you happy. Keep it light; let them respond without interruption; and see “Step 6” for tips on reinforcing what they share.

If they don’t want to participate, don’t worry. Keep sharing your gratitudes each night, working-up to three a day, and eventually they will chime in. Positive psychology studies show that writing or sharing three gratitudes a day can improve happiness and well-being. It’s free and easy, and the benefits are both immediate and long-lasting. In her book, “The Joy of Appreciative Living” Jacqueline Kelm shows how 28 days of gratitudes can help create a new attitude. And, hundreds of studies show thinking positively increases creativity and productivity, which can make the school year more enjoyable for everyone.

Step 3 – Create Special Assignments

Give your child the chance to play an important role in your household this summer. Ask your child what they would like to do as a special assignment. Helping your child select a specific chore can develop a sense of achievement and responsibility, which will reinforce their self-esteem. Solid self-esteem is built upon action, giving your children a way to contribute to your family can have a huge-payoff down the road.

The key is finding a good match between the child and the chore. Be creative. If your son keeps his room organized, maybe he’d be good at cleaning out the linen closet, rearranging kitchen cupboards or garage shelves, or perhaps, creating an online family budget. Another child might prefer reading to a younger sibling or planning and cooking dinner with you. Even the littlest child can help empty drawers, fold clothes or arrange shoes in a closet.

Next, create a fun and easy tracking and reward system for each child. Remember, praise, recognition or a treat may be as important to your child as a monetary award. Finding the right reward for each child will increase the likelihood of success. Let them pick their reward, if you can.

Step 4 – Schedule One-on-One Time

Schedule one-on-one time with your child at least every other week. If you haven’t done this before or very often, scheduling even once a month can be effective. Let your daughter or son select what you will do together. If necessary, set dollar, time and activity limits, but try not to be too restrictive about the details. Make sure you follow through, and stick closely to their plan.

This step can create a sense of security, and reduce competition for your attention. It will also let your children know you value spending time with them and that you trust them to plan an activity or outing, a skill that can help them in school and later in life.

Step 5 – Follow Their Lead

Another great leadership and team building tool is to let your son or daughter plan a family vacation activity. If you’re not taking a vacation, simply substitute weekly family nights and let each child select a weekly activity. Remember to praise and thank them for their efforts, which will reinforce the value of working and playing together, and their self-confidence.

Step 6 – Communicate Actively and Constructively

In his new book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being”, Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, discusses new research that reveals how people respond to a loved one’s good news, is an indicator of how happy and strong their relationship is. Active, positive communication creates better relationships, and can improve your child’s self-esteem. Here’s how to make it work in your home:

  1. Pay attention. Let your child “see” that you are listening when they share important or good news with you. Look them in the eye, turn your body toward them. Smile, laugh, and touch them. Make the conversation all about them. It only takes a few focused minutes to show them how much you care.
  2. Say something positive/constructive: “Oh, Danielle, you made the team, that’s terrific.” Let your choice of words and the way you say them show your excitement. Be sincere and specific.
  3. Engage them by asking questions: “How did you find out?” Then listen, and remain active by following-up with “You must have been so excited, tell me all about it.” Then listen again, so they can share and savor their good news with you.  Suggest ways you can all celebrate their success with a special family treat or dinner.

Stay confident!

To keep yourself on target over the summer, talk to your significant other, friend or family member every night, or as often as you can, about how great it feels to be using the six steps to help your child build his or her self-confidence. If no one is on-hand to listen, jot down your feelings in a journal or share them with your friends on Facebook as a way to savor what you are doing and how good it feels. The better you feel about yourself, the process, and life in general, the easier it will be for your child to feel self-confident.

 Use the “Six Summertime Self-Esteem Building Steps” to increase your child’s self-confidence and to create warm and wonderful family memories, all of which can last a lifetime.

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