“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Almost everyone strives to be happy in life and gratitude practices are a powerful way to accomplish this. Giving thanks for the things that are going well in our lives becomes a priority as we gear up for the holidays. However, we can practice gratitude every day of the year to achieve optimism, good health, and better relationships.
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, the “father of positive psychology” and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that the practice of writing down three things that went well and why they went well, whether due to outside circumstances or our own initiative, shifted people’s habits and thoughts to a more-positive frame of mind. He recommends writing these “three blessings” in a journal every day over the course of a week or longer. This simple exercise has been shown to decrease depression and increase happiness.
According to the National Institutes of Health, gratitude may also help us cope with stress and reduce the symptoms of illnesses. Dr. Judith T. Moskowitz at Northwestern University studies how keeping a daily gratitude journal impacts people with cancer, diabetes, HIV infection, and depression. She explains, “You don’t have to be experiencing major life stress. It also works with the daily stress that we all deal with. Ultimately, it can help you be not just happier but also healthier.”
While practicing gratitude is beneficial to our emotional and mental health, it also can enhance our relationships. According to Dr. Sara Algoe, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, gratitude strengthens and maintains our relationships by helping us identify people who respond to our needs. In another study, researchers found that people who were appreciative of their partners were more responsive to each other’s needs and, thus, these partners were more committed to one another. This is also the case in many friendships. Showing appreciation and verbally expressing gratitude strengthens and maintains healthy bonds.
Thus, there are many gratitude practices that work, including: daily gratitude journaling, saying “mahalo!,” and giving and receiving thoughtful gifts with aloha. Meditation and prayer have also proven to promote a better quality of life.
Here’s a simple, inexpensive, yet highly impactful gratitude practice that would be fun to try with your ohana, friends, and co-workers this holiday season:
- On a piece of paper, write down two or three things that you’re most grateful for in the past year.
- Fold the paper and place it in a container with everyone else’s folded notes.
- Ask each person to pick a note and read it to the group.
- After everyone’s notes have been read, notice if there are common themes of gratitude that come up for the group (e.g., time spent together, good health, etc.).
- The group will guess who wrote each gratitude note read aloud and, hopefully, feel closer and more optimistic after acknowledging each other’s experiences.
Later, paste your own gratitude note in a journal or on a vision board to hold the intention for creating these qualities in your daily life. Aim to adopt a new experience or aspect of your life to be grateful for in the new year as your resolution. Being more grateful is a resolution most of us will be able to keep.
Lani Kwon, MA, RYT, has over two decades of experience in counseling, teaching, public speaking and writing, and she is the author of The Creating CoPOWERment Workbook ©2013 and Creating YOUR Calling®: How to Discover Your Authentic Life Mission due to be published in 2021. Lani supports people in achieving their highest potentials, specializing in transformative life redesign coaching and keynote presentations for companies and organizations via her company, Creating YOUR Calling® LLC.