I am officially in my wind-down-from-the-holidays mode, which is always a time of reflection and planning. While I used to focus on New Year’s resolutions, my attention has shifted in recent years and I now use this time for contemplation and gratitude. In fact, the only New Year’s resolution I will make this year is a commitment to intentional gratitude.
Intentional gratitude, by definition, is the practice of focusing on the present, on appreciating your life as it is today and what has made it so. While most of us recognize and demonstrate appreciation on a daily basis, intentional gratitude takes things one step further. It includes a dedicated time and commitment to reflecting on and recognizing the wonderful things in our lives. At its most disciplined level, intentional gratitude would include writing these contributions down in a journal or notepad.
Even if you are already a positive person, I believe that focusing on gratitude will help you to:
- Increase positivity and optimism
- Improve emotional health
- Increase relaxation
- Improve on or build new relationships
- Escalate productivity
Empirical research indicates many rewards as well. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have completed some important research in this area. *They have gauged the outcomes of individuals that practiced regular intentional gratitude vs. those that wrote about their daily problems and found that participants in the first group, after a 10-week exercise:
- were more optimistic,
- spoke more positively about their life situations,
- were more physically active, and
- incurred fewer doctor’s visits.
So, a small investment in daily intentional gratitude will generate great outcomes. And the beauty of this is the simplicity of the discipline. Here are the steps:
- Create a gratitude journal
- Dedicate five minutes each day to writing down the things you are most thankful for
- Take time to share your thoughts or express that appreciation to those who make it happen for you
It’s that simple! I am grateful that you took the time to read this post, and hope it makes for a happier, healthier and more positive 2017!
H/T to “In Praise of Gratitude” Harvard Mental Health Letter. Originally published November 2011 http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude