Did you know that an individual’s happiness level is remarkably stable over the long-term? Meaning, we all have a happiness baseline and while both the high and low points in our life might temporarily alter it, very few things can permanently increase (or decrease) our happiness set-point.
However, multiple research studies have found that a simple gratitude practice can permanently boost happiness levels as much as 25%. In addition, research has shown that focusing on gratitude provides a wealth of positive health effects such as increasing the flow of healthy hormones in our blood stream and lowering indicators of disease-causing stress. And studies have found that it is neurologically impossible for our brain to focus on emotions like fear and sadness when we are experiencing true gratitude.
So, as we gear up for the Thanksgiving holiday I’d love to share some of my favorite gratitude practices with all of you…
1. THE SIXTY SECOND GRATITUDE GAME
I learned this exercise from my mentor, Dr. Martha Beck. What I love about it is that it always feels fresh and puts me in a real state of gratitude. Here’s how you do it: In sixty seconds try to name as many things as you can that you are thankful for but you can’t say things you’ve ever acknowledged before. When you do this you realize just how many things there are in the world to be grateful for like shampoo that smells good, the sound of rain hitting the window and watching a bird play in a fountain. My kids and I love to do this exercise in the car on the way to school. One person watches the clock, another person keeps count of how many things are listed and the third person gets to say all that they are grateful for and then we rotate. I promise you that it is impossible to be in a sour mood once you are done with this exercise.
Every November the kids and I have an afternoon where we sip apple cider, eat pumpkin bread and do some sort of craft that focuses on gratitude. We save these creations each year and use them to decorate our house for the month of November. The kids love to unpack these items and read the things that they were grateful for in the past – it brings up all sorts of fond memories. One year the kids made play dough turkeys and wrote what they were grateful for on popsicle stick “feathers.” Another year the kids used stamps, stickers and construction paper to make gratitude statements that we hung on our holiday card holder. The crafts are never elaborate but nevertheless, they end up being something we cherish.
There are a lot of great books out there but one of my absolute favorites is An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton. This book really drives home how much there is to be grateful for in the world and our family loves to read it over and over again. It also happens to be one of my favorite gifts to give to both kids and adults. I just can’t recommend this book enough as well as Dallas’ other two books (An Awesome Book and An Awesome Book of Love). Buy them, read them and you will be happier and filled with more gratitude!
A dear friend of mine introduced me to this beautiful gratitude bracelet made by Energy Muse. It has become one of my favorite pieces of jewelry and I wear it daily. Whenever I happen to glance down at my wrist it gives me a gentle reminder to pause and express gratitude right in that moment. When I’m with the kids I often go through this routine out loud and say something like, “Can I just say how grateful I am for (whatever I’m feeling thankful for in that moment).” This often causes the kids to spontaneously share what they’re feeling grateful for too.
And guess what? I just glanced at my bracelet right now so I’d like to take a moment and say that I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and all the benefits that come with living in a state of gratitude!
“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.”
~Dr. Robert Holden