Strengthen Gratitude, Boost Happiness
In this piece there are an array of practices, recommended by various experts and researchers, that can boost our gratitude and happiness quotient.
You can also get more ideas from Robert Emmons’ lecture below, take the time, it a over an hour, and it is worth the listen.
Mr. Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, is 1 of the leading scientific experts on gratitude who has written several books on the topic.
For example: 1of the things he discusses is the ability to receive.
Many of us enjoy gift giving, but respond with anxiety or some other qualitatively negative emotion when we receive gifts. We may worry about the cost, feeling we do not deserve or really need something that expensive, and so on.
So, remember, practicing gratitude involves joyous acceptance of the gift.
If you like, conduct your own experiment
Write down your current level of happiness and life satisfaction on a piece of paper or your calendar, using a rating system of Zero to 10.
Every 3 months or s, reevaluate and re-rank yourself.
|Write thank-you notes— When thanking someone, remember to be specific; recognize the effort involved and the cost, and focus on the other person, not yourself. To flex your gratitude muscle, make it a point to write thank-you notes or letters in response to each gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life.|
|Give verbal praise and say “thank you” more often — Saying thank you and giving praise is much like the practice above, only verbal. As above, keep the focus on the other person and not yourself, for optimal results.
Research shows that using “other-praising” phrases are far more effective than “self-beneficial” phrases.
For example, praising a partner saying, “thank you for going out of your way to do this,” is more powerful than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as “it makes me happy when you do that.”
|Say Grace at each meal — Adopting the ritual of saying Grace at each meal is a great way to practice gratitude on a daily basis, and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.
While this can be a perfect opportunity to honor a spiritual connection with the divine, you do not have to turn it into a religious speech. You could simply say, “I am grateful for this food, and appreciate all the time and hard work that went into its production, transportation and preparation.”
|Change your perception — Disappointment, especially when frequently struggling with things “not going your way” can be a major source of stress, which is known to have far-reaching effects on your health and longevity.
In fact, Centenarians overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid if you want to live a long and healthy life. Since stress is virtually unavoidable, the key is to develop and strengthen your ability to manage your stress so that it doesn’t wear you down over time.
Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. It takes practice, though. It’s a skill that must be honed daily, or however often you’re triggered.
A foundational principle to let go of negativity is the realization that the way you feel has little to do with the event itself, and everything to do with your perception of it. Wisdom of the ancients dictates that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened.
As noted by Ryan Holiday, author of “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,” “The Stoics are saying, ‘This happened to me,’ is not the same as, ‘This happened to me and that is bad.’ They are saying if you stop at the 1st part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens.”
|Be mindful of your nonverbal actions — Smiling and hugging are both ways of expressing gratitude, encouragement, excitement, empathy and support. These physical actions also help strengthen your inner experience of positive emotions.|
|Prayer and/or mindfulness meditation — Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing mindfulness means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you are in right now.
A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory. I have a mantra and have been repeating daily it for 18 years
|Create a nightly gratitude ritual — A suggestion is to create a gratitude jar, into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis.
Any jar or container will do.
Just write a note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar.
Make a monthly event out of going through the jar, reading each slip out loud. If you have young children, a lovely ritual suggested by Dr. Alison Chen is to create a bedtime routine that involves stating what you’re grateful for out loud.
|Spend money on activities instead of things — According to recent research, spending money on experiences not only generates more gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity.
As noted by coauthor Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, “People feel fortunate, and because it’s a diffuse, untargeted type of gratitude, they’re motivated to give back to people in general.”
|Embrace the idea of having “enough” — According to many who have embraced a more minimalist lifestyle, the Key to happiness is learning to appreciate and be grateful for having “enough.”
Financial hardship and work stress are 2 significant contributors to depression and anxiety.
The Key is to buy less and appreciate more.
Instead of trying to keep up with the Jones’, practice being grateful for the things you already have, and release yourself from the iron-grip of advertising, which tells you there is lack in your life.
Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they have been able to reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their happiness and life satisfaction. The key here is deciding what “enough” is.
Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked and unnecessary shopping is.
It’s like being on a hamster wheel — you keep shopping, thinking happiness and life satisfaction will come with it. Yet it never does. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life, yet that void can never be filled by material things.
More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, personal connection, or experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement. So, make an effort to identify your real, authentic emotional and spiritual needs, and then focus on fulfilling those needs in ways that do not involve shopping.
A wise man said, “Even something is not as good as nothing.”
|Spend more time in Nature — Many will naturally feel more grateful for life when they are more connected to Nature. It has a way of putting things into perspective.
Research reveals that spending time in Nature helps reduce rumination (negativity). Ruminating thoughts light up a region in your brain called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area that regulates negative emotions, and is associated with an increased risk for anxiety and depression.
Other recent research shows that just the sounds of Nature have a distinct effect on our brain, lowering fight-or-flight instincts and activating your rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system. Previous research has also demonstrated that listening to nature sounds help you recover faster after a stressful event.
And do not neglect this core element, Always Eat Real Food!
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
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