Day 9 of Oprah and Deepak’s Meditation 21 Day Series

Feeling grateful for taking the time to slow down long enough to watch this guy in our backyard! He arrived early yesterday and spent the night!

Loving their Grace Through Gratitude 21-Day Meditation Series and allowing gratitude and grace to be a expanded part of each of my days.

i

What is making you feel grateful these days?

In the Series Oprah and Deepak remind us how good feeling gratitude feels! The changes to your heart and soul are life enhancing and can .help you bring positivity and grace into your life.

Wishing you blue skies, sweet adventures and moments of heartfelt gratitude today and everyday.

Warm regards,

Patrice

Another way to meditate

b7f8c554b69c1c9a33e783d6c957ddbfIf you’ve been thinking about meditating, but haven’t started or if you are a looking for a way to bring more gratitude into your life, please check out this free gratitude film series by famed  director, producer, and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg.

The Mentors Channel 21 Days of Gratitude series begins November 4th, and may be the best holiday gift you give yourself – and it’s free. By the time the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins, you will be relaxed and ready to embrace the festivities from a brand new perspective.

Click here to enjoy one of the wonderful videos the series offers. It begins with a sweet message and is 6 minutes of pure pleasure and the perfect way to immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude. The series is designed to be enjoyed with your eyes open or closed, so it is perfect for meditating and gratitude newbies and a refreshing change for those comfortable with the practices.

For more information on this free series, click here. I’m sharing this information because I’m grateful it is available! Please take a moment to do the same with your friends and family via email or Facebook. Everyone can use a bit  of tranquility at this time of year!

Here’s more about the series from the Mentor Channel:

Embark on a never before traveled, journey into gratitude, through extraordinary audio and stunning video presentations . Listen to inspirational thoughts from our narrator and twenty one pre-eminent mentors, leading minds of industry, science, entertainment and spiritually. Keep your eyes open, as you enjoy dazzling images of nature that transport you to a magical place, or, with eyes closed, allow haunting melodies take you to a quiet place within . . .
  • An unorthodox, reliable way for anyone to meditate
  • Audio meditations enhanced with extraordinary visuals
  • Golden nuggets from world renowned mentors
  • Learn how to enhance every aspect of your life with gratitude
  • Heal and/or strengthen family bonds through gratitude
  • Discover your unique place in the universe
  • Begin to appreciate nature in a whole new way
  • Turn your dreams and desires into reality through the practice of gratitude

Enjoy! And remember to share the series with your family and friends.

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.

One year ago this week . . .

Gratitude, happiness, a road trip and a wedding – 2011

 

I’m with three of my eight siblings and my oldest son for my niece’s wedding this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful and happy I am to be with them, which I think is the perfect segue to share with you author and positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky’s eight ways gratitude boosts happiness from her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

Lyubomirsky notes:
1. Gratitude promotes savoring positive life experiences.

2. Gratitude may increase a sense of confidence and self-worth, by encouraging you to consider what you value about your current life.

3. Gratitude helps you cope with difficulties.

4. Gratitude encourages kindness and other moral behavior.

5. Gratitude helps strengthen relationships.

6. Gratitude inhibits envy.

7. Gratitude helps undermine negative emotions.

8. Gratitude keeps us from taking the good things for granted.

I do believe Sonja’s right, so when we set off at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I immediately began savoring the moments. One of the things I love about road trips is drinking coffee and eating peppered beef jerky in the car. Strange but true, I love the combo, but only in the early a.m. in a speeding automobile! I guess it awakens my brain to the fact that life is good and fun is on the way!

By 5 a.m. I had opened the bag of jerky, gnawed a strip or two, and downed a cup of still piping hot homemade coffee, which sharpened my senses and allowed me to take special note of the fog-tipped marshes and slow-moving rivers of north Florida and Georgia as the sun rose, backlighting these natural wonders.

As South Carolina came into view, I spent time thinking  about my life and how happy I was for all the wonderful folks in it. I took the time to reflect and remember the good times I’d shared with my sisters, and how we’ve supported each other when times were tougher than we wanted them to be.

By the North Carolina border, I was convinced I was the luckiest woman in the world, and was brimming with gratitude and tears just thinking about it. These warm and cozy feelings helped me push aside my mental laundry list of things to do or left undone, and let me fully enjoy the moment and anticipate the fun that was waiting for me up the road.  I couldn’t wait to see my sisters, nieces and nephews, hang-out with my son, and to meet the bride and groom’s friends and extended family – I love the way marriage interlaces and connects us to one another.

Well, I am knee-deep in family and new friends, and loving it. I’m not taking one minute of this gathering or the beauty of the North Carolina hills and mountains for granted. I really do believe that each moment we are grateful makes our lives and our experiences richer and more rewarding.

Now, if I can just find a way to use gratitude to help me stop coveting the fabulous collection of shoes and dresses my younger sister brought with her, I think this will be a perfect weekend!

I hope that wherever you are this week – friends, family and a closet full of really great shoes are nearby.

PS I think I found a way – I am very grateful my kid sister is always willing to share her heart, her clothes, and her shoes with me! Thank you, Deb. I love you!

Why positive psychology matters

This Thursday at 6 p.m. I will be presenting my second “Why Positive Psychology Matters” talk in Macedonia at the American Corner in Bitola. I presented my first via the Internet in March at the American Corner in Skopje.

We will be discussing gratitude, the 3 F’s of Happiness, PERMA, personal stories and strengths and how are brains are designed to help us create the lives we really want.

If you are in the area, please join us! If you can’t make it, clink on the links above to read some of what we’ll be talking about. It may change your life.

And, if you like what you read, you can subscribe to Wishful Thinking Works, and follow on Facebook.

Gratitude, happiness, a road trip and a wedding

 

I’m with three of my eight siblings and my oldest son for my niece’s wedding this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful and happy I am to be with them, which I think is the perfect segue to share with you author and positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky’s eight ways gratitude boosts happiness from her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

Lyubomirsky notes:
 
1. Gratitude promotes savoring positive life experiences. 

2. Gratitude may increase a sense of confidence and self-worth, by encouraging you to consider what you value about your current life.

3. Gratitude helps you cope with difficulties.

4. Gratitude encourages kindness and other moral behavior.

5. Gratitude helps strengthen relationships.

6. Gratitude inhibits envy.

7. Gratitude helps undermine negative emotions.

8. Gratitude keeps us from taking the good things for granted.

I do believe Sonja’s right, so when I set off at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I began savoring the moments. One of the things I love about road trips is coffee and peppered beef jerky in the car. Strange but true, I love the combo, but only in the early a.m. in a speeding automobile. I guess it signals my brain that life is good and fun is on the way!

By 5 a.m. I had opened the bag of jerky, gnawed a strip or two and downed a cup of still piping hot homemade coffee, which sharpened my senses and allowed me to take special note of the fog tipped marshes and slow-moving rivers of north Florida and Georgia as the sun rose slowly, backlighting these natural wonders.

As South Carolina came into view, I spent time thinking  about my life and how happy I was for all the wonderful folks in it. I took the time to reflect and remember the good times I’d shared with my sisters, and how we’ve supported each other when times were tougher than we wanted them to be.

By the North Carolina border, I was convinced I was the luckiest woman in the world, and was brimming with gratitude and tears just thinking about it. These warm and cozy feelings helped me push aside my mental laundry list of things to do or left undone, and let me fully enjoy the moment and anticipate the fun that was waiting for me up the road.  I couldn’t wait to see my sisters, nieces and nephews, hang-out with my son, and to meet the bride and groom’s friends and extending family – I love the way marriage interlaces and connects us to one another. 

Well, I am knee-deep in family and new friends, and loving it. I’m not taking one minute of this gathering or the beauty of the North Carolina hills and mountains for granted. I really do believe that each moment we are grateful makes our lives and our experiences richer and more rewarding.

Now, if I could only find a way to use gratitude to help me get my mind out of my sister’s hotel room long enough to stop coveting her fantastic shoes and clothes collection, I think this will be a perfect weekend!

I hope that wherever you are this weekend – friends, family and a closet full of really great shoes are nearby.

PS I think I found a way – I am very grateful my kid sister is willing to share her heart, her clothes and her shoes with me! Thank you in advance, Deb.

Positive Psychology Rocks!

Almost everyday for the past two years I’ve spent time reading about positive psychology research and trends. And, I have to say it again – Positive Psychology Rocks!

For me, the best part of scientific research is finding ways to apply it to our everyday lives. I love when science leads to cures for previously incurable diseases, or how environmental research has deepened our understanding of our impact on the planet’s resources, or that studying happiness revealed just how much gratitude really matters

So you can imagine my excitement when I read this article (another geek alert, I know, I know.) in the online version of “The Capital”, an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper, especially when the article came on the heels of my post last week about how much I love being a life coach.

Here’s what psychologist, Tom Muha had to say about Positive Psychology. I reprinted his article in its entirety because I like what he had to say and reading that practicing psychologists are open to new directions makes my heart sing. Sure, Muha is just one psychologist, but positive inroads are being made throughout the profession, which will lead us all down happier paths in the future.

In the meantime, as a very happy life coach, I will keep reading, sharing the good news with you, and helping my clients create their own positive psychology based successes.

Without further ado, here’s Muha’s article . . .

Achieving Happiness: Being positive is more than just eliminating the negative

By TOM MUHA, For The Capital

Capital Gazette Communications

Published 05/01/11

Most people believe that the way to become more successful and satisfied is to focus on fixing their weaknesses and learning from their mistakes. The profession of psychology spent nearly 100 years studying what’s wrong with people and delving into the depths of their psyches in order to help patients become aware of the dysfunctional patterns that cause them great suffering.

The problem is this approach hasn’t helped people to have a higher level of well-being. The rate of depression is 10 times higher today than it was in 1960, according to the renowned psychology researcher Martin Seligman. The percent of workers who were happy with their jobs (45 percent) is at the lowest point in the past 22 years, according to a 2010 Conference Board survey, in spite of employees receiving repeated feedback regarding improving their performance.

As a psychologist for almost 40 years, it has become clear to me that while therapists can help alleviate someone’s depression, that doesn’t make the person happy. Anxiety symptoms can be reduced, but people don’t become optimistic. Job performance issues can be addressed to increase competency without actually getting the employee to fully engage in their job. If all psychologists try to do is diminish the negative aspects of life, the most they can do is to help people get to neutral.

Unfortunately neutral is not a stable state. As soon as the next stressor comes along, the individual who is languishing in neutral has a very high probability of lapsing back into unhappiness. Think about it like having money in the bank. If the account balance is at zero and you have to write a check, you’re quickly into the hole once again. But if you are able to learn how to make money and accumulate a significant balance in your account, then having to write a big check is far less likely to leave you overdrawn.

About a decade ago, a handful of psychologists began to realize that looking only at people who were suffering was akin to studying gravity and expecting to figure out how to fly. These thought leaders took a radically different approach and began to study the top percentage of people who were able to attain high levels of success and satisfaction in order to learn the principles by which they operate. What they discovered is that our brains are hardwired to help us perform at our best when they are filled with positives rather than negatives or even neutrality.

For example, physicians who are in a positive mood before diagnosing a patient demonstrate almost three times more intellect and creative thinking, and are 19 percent faster in arriving at an accurate diagnosis than their colleagues who were in a neutral state. Sales people who have an optimistic mind-set have been found to sell 56 percent more than their pessimistic counterparts. Positive psychology studies show that students who are happy before taking a math test achieve significantly higher scores than their neutral peers.

An interesting thing has happened to me as I have become a practitioner of positive psychology. I discovered that I became much happier as a result of my learning how to teach people the principles that they could use to become happier in their relationships, careers and within themselves. Reading, writing, researching and coaching the principles of positive psychology has transformed my life. Rather than being resigned to tolerating as best I could the ups and downs of life as I encountered them, I realized that it’s possible to proactively generate many more ups than downs.

Knowing how to create happiness for myself and others has been immensely satisfying. I discovered that happiness is the fuel for success, and that increasing positivity is immensely rewarding. It’s been amazing to see people who were simply surviving life to blossom into full-blown happiness. It’s fantastic to see people get past their fear of not being good enough and go on to creating love in their life, satisfaction in their career and happiness in their heart.

When people learn to capitalize on their feelings of happiness, the positive changes they make in their life ripples out into wider and wider circles. Because happiness is contagious, it infects a person’s entire social network. A positive attitude sparks an upward spiral of success and satisfaction that profoundly changes people’s relationships at home and at work. As people resonate with the positive emotions being transmitted back and forth, they experience increased collaboration, heartfelt connection and immense joy cascading into every corner of their life.

Dr. Tom Muha is a psychologist practicing in Annapolis. Previous articles can be found at www.achievinghappiness.com. To contact him call 443-454-7274 or email drtom@achievinghappiness.com.

 The end.

Have a great day!

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