Positive Psychology: Gratitude
Positive Psychology is the science of well-being. It focuses on skills that foster good feelings and resilience. One of the most powerful and impactful area of positive psychology is the practice of gratitude.
Gratitude is defined as a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life. It consisted of 2 related steps:
- Acknowledging the goodness that is present in our life.
- Recognize that the source of these blessings lies at least in part outside our selves.
Research shows that regular gratitude practice impacts both our psychology and bodies. First, gratitude has been shown to “ decrease rates of depression and stress, while enhancing positive mental states such as joy, optimism and tranquility”(Paquette, 2018). Second, people who regularly practice gratitude, have overall improved physical health, stronger immune systems, and reduced rates of stress-related illnesses. Third, our brains change structurally and chemically in ways that increase well-being.
Jonah Paquette, Psy.D.(2018) suggests a good place to start is to start noticing positive occurrences in our daily lives. The “Three Good Things” technique is a simple way to start a gratitude practice. You will need a few sheets of paper or a notebook and a pen/pencil for this exercise.
Three Good Things
Instructions: Before bed each night for 2 weeks
1) Write down three things that went well that day. They can be little or big things, there is no right answer. Example: I had a restful day off and feel relaxed.
2) Explain why you think this happened and or your contribution to the event. Example: I had a restful day because I kept the TV turned off and did not check my work email.
Try to challenge yourself not to repeat an entry over the next 2 weeks.
Shifting to a Gratitude Mindset
Once you feel comfortable noticing good things in your life, change your journal entries to reflect what you are grateful for, and explain your reasoning. This subtle adjustment adds a deeper meaning to your practice. It widens the “goodness” in your life to include an acknowledgment of an external source of goodness and an experience of being thankful. This shift deepens the positive impact on your mood and physical health.
References and resources:
The Happiness Tool Box by Jonah Paquette, Psy.D. 2018 PESI Publishing and Media, Eau Claire, WI.
Pamela Marsh, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist at Marsh Psychology Group, in Huntington Woods, Michigan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org