How can you practice gratitude today? It’s one of the Pillars of Utah Lacrosse, and one of the best ways to instantly create more love and connection in your life.
“People who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic, and more hopeful and to report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. They also tend to be more helpful and empathetic, more spiritual and religious, more forgiving, and less materialistic than others who are less predisposed to gratefulness. Furthermore, the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.” – Sonja Lyubormirsky
Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, “The How of Happiness” shares the research demonstrating the fact that “those who keep a weekly gratitude journal for 10 weeks, simply noting five things every day for which they were thankful, were significantly happier than those who didn’t”. How much happier? well, different scientific studies have reported that this practice makes people anywhere between, 5% to 25% happier. Ultimately, happiness is what we’re all after. It’s why we compete, why we join a team, why we go to college, why we do anything!
If research says that it’s as easy as noticing our blessings, why aren’t we journaling? At Utah lacrosse, we talk a lot about the differences in the people who say, “I wanna” vs. the people who say, “I’m gonna”. Well, spending one-minute a day to write down your blessings is an easy way to begin to become an, “‘I’m Gonna be Happy!’ type of person”. Remember, 5% to 25% of your happiness is totally within your control!
So, for what are you grateful?!? Let’s start week #1 now:
I’m thankful for these five things in my life:
So, when you’re feeling down; practice gratitude. When you’re feeling great; practice gratitude! Write it down. There is magic to putting pen to paper. Slowly, you will start to day-dream about what you wrote that morning, you will begin to notice all the blessings and opportunities in your life.
If you want to crank up your ‘gratitude journaling’, the next step is to practice what the Stoics called, “Negative Visualization”. To the ends of being happy, they practiced imagining that they had lost the things they valued. William B. Irvine, in “The Stoic Challenge” elaborates on the practice:
“In particular, they would periodically make a point of imagining ways in which their lives could be worse. This might sound like a recipe for a miserable existence, but was in fact quite the opposite. By thinking about how things could be worse, they effectively sank an anchor into their subconscious minds (not that they thought in these psychological terms). The presence of the anchor affected how they subsequently felt about their current situation. Instead of comparing it to the superior situations they routinely found themselves dreaming of, they compared it to the inferior situations they imagined and thereupon concluded that things weren’t so bad.
This process, now known as negative visualization, is one of the most remarkable psychological instruments in the Stoic tool kit. It is important to realize that in advising us to negatively visualize, the Stoics weren’t advocating that we dwell on how things could be worse; that would indeed be a recipe for misery. Instead, what we should do is periodically have flickering thoughts about how our lives and circumstances could be worse.”
Changing your perspective is powerful. And training your sub-conscious mind to do so is your ticket to becoming happier, tougher, calmer, and more resilient. It’s the most important thing you can do. And getting started practicing it is as simple as writing it down. So, take a moment to reflect on the 5 things you are grateful for today. Now imagine losing them. How would your life change? For example, your girlfriend left you, your car was stolen, you got hurt and can no longer play the sport you love.
Now, appreciate that you haven’t lost all these wonderful things in your life! Consider how amazing it is that you are blessed with so many wonderful people and opportunities in your life!