Do you want to have a better life? Need to sleep better? How about improve your marriage? Well, one way to improve your way of living is with gratitude. Yes, gratitude. Researchers have found that gratitude improves a person’s mood, personal relationships and overall sense of well-being (Barlett & DeSteno, 2006 & Watkins, et al, 2003). One study by Digdon & Koble (2011), found that gratitude interventions help with sleep problems. Isn’t it amazing how such a simple thing as being thankful can have such a profound affect on us?
While I was reading the book of Philippians one day, I was struck by what my New International Version (NIV) Study Bible commentary had to say about Philippians 4:6-7. If you recall, the verse goes like this…
“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The commentator wrote about this verse (my paraphrase), worry and thanksgiving are two opposing forces; one cannot be worried and thankful at the same time. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s good.” It occurred to me that we often focus on trying to “stop worrying” but never replace it with anything. It’s like the “yellow car” exercise where you are told to imagine a yellow car, then told to stop thinking about the “yellow car.”
Can you stop thinking about the “yellow car?”
Well no, because we continue to talk (or think) about it. It’s not until we think of something else our thoughts shift. What better way to quiet the worry and anxiety in our lives then to change our focus to being grateful? Apparently, if we practice gratitude we feel better, are less anxious, plus we treat our loved ones better. And here all along, the Bible had it right.
Here is one way to practice gratitude: keep a gratitude journal.
- Get something to write in. It can be a journal, notebook or an iPad app (Yes, there’s even an app for that... get the app here).
- Now, write down at least 5 things you are thankful for. Be specific.
- Write in your journal daily. (It’s only 5 things a day, how hard can it be?)
- Review often. (Reflect on the things that you were grateful for yesterday as well as today).
- Pass it on. Smile or help someone else. Maybe you’ll end up in someone’s gratitude journal.
Want more information on gratitude journals:
Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal
I am Thankful
Bartlett, M. Y. & DeSteno, D. (2006). Helping when it costs you. Psychological Science, 17(4), 319-325.
Digdon, N. & Koble, A. (2011). Effects of constructive worry, imagery distraction, and gratitude interventions on sleep quality: A pilot trial. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(2), 193-206.
Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(5), 431-452.