Friday, November 27, 2009


I feel a little weird tagging onto a holiday that isn't mine so we keep it pretty low-key during American Thanksgiving. Half my family is American though so I'd better find a way to participate even if I feel like a party crasher.

Truthfully, I just find it hard to celebrate a holiday that is rooted in the arrival of one set of people who then proceeded to destroy the entire way of life of another people. Hence, my focus on gratitude. I like to link Thanksgiving with the harvest and gratitude not so much with the destruction-of-an-entire-race-of-people thing.

I am a strong supporter of gratitude journals and the benefits they bring. It is clear in my life that I am much more settled and solid when my eyes are searching for the powerful, magnificent and marvelous in my world.

Robert Pagliarini with The Chicago Tribune also believes in gratitude. In his November 26th article he shares;

One of the best ways to increase your happiness and sense of well being is to express gratitude. Don't believe me? Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California at Davis has done extensive research on gratitude and happiness. Here are some of his findings:

--Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared with those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

--Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared with subjects in the other experimental conditions.

--A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.

--Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.

Emmons' research shows that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of optimism, alertness, energy, enthusiasm and determination.

I can tell you firsthand the power of doing this. About a week into my gratitude journal, I got some really bad news. The kind of news that you can't shake for some time and that has long-lasting consequences. The very first thing I thought was "This sucks!" I was shocked and angry. After about 20 seconds of this, I immediately thought back to what I had written earlier in the day. It instantly changed my perspective. Was I (am I) still upset by the news? Absolutely. But I'm looking at it from a very different place.

Here's how you can start your own gratitude journal:

1. Allocate 10 minutes every day to this. That means scheduling an appointment with yourself if you have to. I've found that doing it first thing in the morning is best.

2. Buy a blank writing journal. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it must be strictly for your daily gratitude writings. Don't use it for taking notes, doodling, etc.

3. Write for 10 minutes about anything and everything you are grateful for. It's OK to repeat from one day to the next, but try to come up with at least one new thing each day.

Get started on your gratitude journal right away. Don't let the headlines bring you down and cause you to lose your perspective or alter your priorities. A sure-fire way to unhappiness, frustration and bitterness is to take for granted what you have and what you've accomplished. It doesn't matter if you're broke, in a dead-end job, morbidly obese, alone or depressed. There are things in your life you have the right to feel grateful for.

If you're waiting for life or the economy to be perfect before you are grateful, you'll be missing out on a wonderful gift.

Identifying and expressing gratitude can sometimes be difficult, especially if you don't think you have much to be grateful for. The first thing on my list tomorrow: I'm grateful I'm not a turkey!

Robert Pagliarini is the author of "Six-Day Financial Makeover," and "Your Other 8 Hours: Get more Time. Get a Life. Get Rich," to be published in January.

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