Today’s guest post on gratitude was written by my dear friend Cindi. I’ve attended a women’s group at our church for years with Cindi and watched her blossom into a wonderful presenter. She recently completed a course on positive psychology and I asked her to share with us some practices and ideas. Thank you, Cindi!
“When we fill our minds with blessings and gratitude, an inner shift in consciousness can occur. As we focus on the abundance in our lives rather than what we lack, a wonderful blueprint for the future begins to emerge.” -Sir John Templeton
I’ve recently started studying Positive Psychology and have learned that a consistent gratitude practice can significantly improve your level of happiness. We’ve all heard about the importance of keeping a gratitude journal, Oprah popularized that a while ago, but research on gratitude has shown that the method of practice has a significant impact on whether or not you’ll benefit from it. Depth matters. Simply writing “three things I’m grateful for today” may be beneficial initially, but you’ll have a hard time sustaining this because it will very quickly become boring and feel monotonous.
My daughter graduated from high school this May. It’s been a bittersweet year of “lasts.” A roller coaster ride of highs and lows. This isn’t my first rodeo, she’s my 3rd child of four. And yet, she’s my only girl. This time it feels different. I could easily have dissolved into tears many times (okay, I have) but have tried to stay mindful of practicing gratitude.
With college move-in day less than a month away, I find myself feeling overwhelming thankful for everyone who helped me get her this far.
Psychologist Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and the world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, provides these tips for successful gratitude journaling in his book Gratitude Works:
1. Specificity: Seek gratitude density. Be specific. Go for depth.
My daughter is a soccer player. Instead of just thinking “I’m grateful for soccer”, I’ve taken the time to reflect on the close friendships she’s developed with her teammates, the knowledge and time commitment given by her coaches over the years, many of whom were volunteers, my fellow parents that volunteered their time organizing booster events so they could have nice equipment and a fun and meaningful year-end banquet, and who took pictures so we’d have permanent memories of the good times. I’m grateful for the character lessons she’s learned about teamwork, self-discipline and the importance of practice and dedication.
2. Surprise: Try to write about unexpected, novel or unanticipated events, circumstances or experiences.
My friend Jackie went above and beyond to create a personalized memory book for my daughter as a graduation gift. She included pictures and quotes that she thought she’d like. When a mix-up happened at the printer, she had to scramble to get it done in time to present it to her at her graduation party. Though I knew about the book, my daughter did not, and I was genuinely touched by the effort my friend extended in making sure it all came together.
3. Scarcity: A sense of “now or never” can impel us to make the most of every day
The reality of the “lasts” that are part of senior year really hit home on prom night. We’d experienced a lot of dances and the primping and preparing and picture taking sessions that come with them over the years, but this time was truly the last time. Seeing all the kids I’d watched blossom from awkward freshman at that first Homecoming dance to the confident young men and women they’d become as they posed for pictures on their big night, I was tremendously grateful for her friends and my fellow parents and all we’d been through together.
Gratitude journaling can be a wonderfully rewarding experience and when done regularly, keeps us mindful and present to life’s gifts. It’s not quite time to say goodbye yet, and when I do, I’m sure there will be more tears, shed with a full heart.
Cindi Roselieb is a coach, speaker, and workshop facilitator. A mom of four with a degree in Social Work and certifications in Positive Psychology and Coaching, Cindi uses her passion for helping people “get unstuck” to present programs that encourage others to live their best lives.