In the science of happiness, two psychologists have emerged with the most definitive research to date that gratitude can play a significant role in personal well-being and overall satisfaction with quality of life.
Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, and Dr. Michael McCollough ofSouthern Methodist University, have shown that people who count their blessings daily in 'gratitude journals' reported higher levels of enthusiasm, optimism and energy and experienced less stress and depression.
In his book, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr, Emmons describes gratitude as a two part process. He describes it as a process ofacknowledgement of the goodness in our lives, and recognizing that the source of this goodness exists "at least partially" outside of ourselves. He says it as an awareness that we are on the receiving end of goodness and that the 'giver' acted intentionally for our own benefit.
Emmons noted that people who take the time to record their reasons for giving thanks report feeling more loving, forgiving, joyful and enthusiastic. Their families reported that they seem happier and are more pleasant to be around.
The research by Emmons and McCollough also discovered that conscious practice of gratitude encourages reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages other.
It is said that some forms of depression are self-induced, caused by habituated negative thinking. Depression is inner focused, self focused whereas gratitude is an outward projection. By focusing on gratitude, we become aware of the positive aspects of our lives which can affect our very outlook on life.
A gratitude journal can serve as a therapeutic way to consciously call attention to the things for which we are thankful for; the things that make us feel good.
Here's how you can create your own gratitude journal. Start out with a plain, blank notebook. Throughout your day, consciously look for things for which you are grateful and make mental notes. The key is to start out by acknowledging the small things such as, "The sky looked so beautiful this morning on my way to work" or "I love the way the air smells this time of year."When you begin by recognizing the small, ordinarily overlooked blessings in your life, the more substantial gifts such as, "I am lucky to have someone who loves me for who I am" or "I have a great family" will be easier to recognize and record.
Now, before you go to bed each night make it a habit to write down at least five things in your notebook from your day that you are grateful for. Try to be consistent with the time and place you do your journaling each night so you develop a habit.
Take this exercise further by looking for the positive angle in all things throughout your day. View challenges and obstacles as opportunities, look for the silver lining.
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