Recently I noticed my thoughts trending in the wrong direction. Challenging life circumstances seemed to be getting the best of my emotions. Rather than dwelling on the situation I thought about the best remedial course of action to take. I have always been a big believer in gratitude. It is important to be thankful for the good things we have in life even when it seems like they are being outweighed by the bad. What better way to transform my state of mind and energize my emotions than 100 minutes of non-stop uninterrupted gratitude?
To practice gratitude effectively, it is important to understand what the process consists of and what the end goal is in mind. Below is an apt description of gratitude and what it does from the experts at Harvard Health.
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power (link).
A number of studies have demonstrated that gratitude increases happiness and both the frequency and intensity of positive emotion. One study lasting 10 weeks had a group of participants write about things they were grateful for that had occurred in their daily life. A second group was asked to journal about daily irritations and annoyances. Another study lasting 3 week recruited college students who had sought counseling for mental health. One group of students was asked to deliver a letter of gratitude to someone once a week. A second group was asked to journal about negative life experiences. In both studies, participants in the first group that practiced gratitude reported significantly greater happiness than their second group peers. Summarizing the state of gratitude research, Harvard Health had this to say.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
100 Minutes of Gratitude
100 minutes is admittedly not a long time. It comes and goes and we carry on with our lives. But even in the relatively short span of 100 minutes, I experienced tangible benefits that translated into other areas of my life. For this exercise, I retreated to my room, shut off my phone, stopped consuming, and let my mind focus only on the things I was grateful for. I recalled happy memories from the past, blessings I was currently living, and doors of the future that I resolved to walk into with a thankful attitude. I even practiced being thankful for the difficult times of the past that had taught me lessons and enabled me to see the world in a different light. Here are three major takeaways from this session and the exercise of gratitude more broadly.
1. I Had More To Be Thankful For Than I Realized
My resolve only to focus on things I was thankful for worked like a magnet. Examples from the past, present, and future flooded my mind. I expressed gratitude that I was given attention and care as child; that I drove a nice car and lived in a beautiful house; that I had the opportunity to receive an education; and that I had friends and family who loved me. I also thanked God that nature was so giving and had enabled our species to survive and thrive throughout the ages.
Gratitude provee the saying, “What you focus on grows, what you ignore dies.” Over time, as I made conscious effort to control my focus, my brain wandered less and settled more on things I had to be thankful for.
What you focus on grows, what you ignore dies.
2. My Reality Was A Function of My Own Mind
Gratitude did not change anything in my external world. I lived in the same house and drove the same car. It was still summer. And I was still my mother’s son. My circumstances and the challenges therein were the same as before. However, after just one session I felt a little better about every area of my life. Imagine practicing gratitude 100 minutes, or even 10 minutes, every day for a year. Reality and perception really are two sides of the same coin.
3. Gratitude Cost Me Nothing
People bend over backwards every day to make themselves happier. They work long hours. They spend huge sums of money. (Amazon’s recent Prime Day generated more than $5 billion in revenue) (link).They modify their dress and behavior to earn the acceptance of others. And sometimes they commit crimes and deal deceptively. But what if I told you there was a cheaper alternative, one that didn’t cost a dime. An alternative premised on the fact that you are a part of something greater than yourself. That no matter who you are you have something to be grateful for. And that something is at least partially the result of forces beyond your control.
All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.Proverbs 15:15
Gratitude isn’t new-aged nonsense or a passing fad. Research demonstrates what wise people know instinctively—that being thankful leads to greater individual happiness and better health outcomes.