Optimism, joy, chuckles, bliss. It seems that so many places we turn, people are talking about the elusive concept of happiness. We can speculate at the reasons; a tormented economy, the sandwich generation, increasing social pressures. I’ve read unfortunate tales about the increase in the use of antidepressants in adults and in children. Frankly, I think happiness is a difficult thing to calculate. How do we really know of its existence or its intensity unless we’ve measured it against sadness?
Have we forgotten that like seasons and ocean tides, things tend to work in cycles? I’m not a student of psychology but I do enjoy reading the work and research of those who’ve examined this topic more deeply. In fact, several studies conducted over the last decade revealed an amazingly simple method of increasing happiness. It’s the practice of gratitudes.
In 2003, Emmons and McCulloughin asked participants to write down 5 things that they were grateful for once a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, they concluded that those participating were 25% happier than a control group that simply listed five random events each week. In 2005, another study actually followed participants for a period of six months and had similar results. And interestingly, a third study comparing the effectiveness of daily gratitudes versus a weekly gratitude found the latter more effective.
As the folks over at PsyBlog say, “the beauty of this exercise is that it’s so easy that it shouldn’t even be called exercise.” In order to get started, you need to find two minutes. Two minutes? Yes, that’s all it takes on a weekly basis to brainstorm five things that you are grateful for. These things can be as simple as the first taste of hot coffee in the morning to your child’s ability to perform Hunter’s Chorus in front of an audience. If you have more than two minutes, speculate on the causes of those gratitudes. The true benefit that this exercises creates is a sense of what we DO have as opposed to what we don’t.
So, as I begin this morning, I’ll take a moment to think about those things that occurred over the past week:
- I have a scrumptious rose colored smoothie in front of me.
- I’m married to the best cappuccino maker on the planet.
- We watched my oldest son play amazing baseball this weekend.
- My winter garden is planted and coming along nicely.
- These old pink jammies that I’m wearing are soft and comfy.
What things are you grateful for this week?
- heaping handful of kale
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 medium beet
- 8 oz. of cold water
- agave to sweeten as desired
Put all ingredients in the Vitamix and blend away. The mixture of kale and beet give this a somewhat earthy taste which can be remedied with the addition of a carrot or more fruit. Mint is a nice addition also. Be creative. Be grateful.