The Simple Power of Gratitude

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude” – Brené Brown

“Gratitude is a potent vaccine that inoculates us against negativity” – Donald Altman

In the 1990s, the field of positive psychology ushered in a new awareness of how cultivating positive attributes fortifies us during times of stress, crisis, and turmoil and leads to resilience and personal growth. It is now understood that gratitude is one of the attributes most strongly associated with mental health.
Known benefits of gratitude include:
• Improved physical, emotional, and social well-being
• Long-lasting sense of optimism and happiness
• Improved feelings of connection during times of loss or crisis
• Increased self-esteem
• Greater energy levels
• Improved capacity for forgiveness
• Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches
• Strengthened heart, immune system, and decreased blood pressure
• Greater likelihood to exercise
• Heightened spirituality – ability to see something bigger than ourselves

A 2003 study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology had participants keep a “gratitude journal.” They were instructed to write down five things for which they were grateful each week for a period of ten weeks. Results showed:
• Participants who journaled about gratitude were 25% happier than persons who wrote down their day’s frustrations or simply wrote the day’s events
• Participants were more optimistic about their future
• Participants felt better about their lives
• Participants participated in one and a half more hours of exercise every week than those in the control groups

Donald Altman, who wrote One-Minute Mindfulness: 50 Simple Ways to Find Peace, Clarity, and New Possibilities in a Stressed-Out World, recommends the G.L.A.D. Technique for gratitude journaling:

• G – One Gratitude you are thankful for today. This can be as simple as your health, a sunny day, or a pleasant interaction with a stranger. But it must be relevant to your day.
• L – One new thing you Learned today, about yourself, someone else, or the world. This encourages curiosity, wisdom, self-growth, and knowledge.
• A – One Accomplishment, no matter how small. This can be any movement toward a long-term goal, an act of self-care, or simply getting out of bed.
• D – One Delight you had today. This can be something that was beautiful, something that brought you joy or laughter, or something that made you feel good.

A few minutes a day to focus on gratitude encourages a positive mindset and breaks up negativity and self-defeating thinking patterns. Try the G.L.A.D. Journaling Technique to see if it improves your mood and changes the way you look at your life.

Paige Fegan, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

**Portions of the above information were adapted from:
Altman, D. (2012). The Top One-Minute Mindfulness Strategies to Use in Your Practice [Webinar]