Did you know that gratitude practices are now being taught in schools?
Practicing gratitude has been shown to have such a powerful effect on well-being that forward-thinking are teaching students gratitude exercises as a life skill.
For example, Geelong Grammar School has embedded positive psychology in its curriculum, and both students and staff have benefited. Not only that, they love it! You can read a fuller account of this in Martin Seligman’s recent book, Flourish. Seligman is a proponent and founder of positive psychology and you can visit his website here.
In Flourish, Seligman relates the development of his own psychology practice and research towards a new paradigm centered on well-being rather than disease and dysfunction. I’m a big fan of Seligman’s approach having experienced first hand the traditional system which is so focused (as per the Western medical model) on everything wrong with a person that it forgets there’s a whole lot right.
Seligman’s approach to treating depression, for example, is to focus on a person’s signature strengths and to give them gratitude exercises for homework. Sounds too easy – but this method has been demonstrated in controlled studies to be more effective than traditional psychotherapy or antidepressants!
Here are two gratitude exercises which Seligman recommends. They have been shown to improve mood and overall well-being at the time of doing the exercise and afterwards. And mental well-being impacts on physical health, so the benefits extend beyond feeling good.
The exercises are so simple and quick to do that there’s really no excuse!
At the end of each day write down three things that went well for you. Then write down why these things went well.
For example, perhaps you cooked a delicious meal and enjoyed eating it. This might be because you took time to buy fresh ingredients, follow a recipe, and sit down at the table with your family to eat.
Doing this exercise for only a few weeks has been shown to rewire your brain into looking for the positive events in the day. No wonder this is a mood-improver!
Another version of this exercise is to do it verbally with your partner, a friend, or your kids. Try it after dinner each night for a few minutes instead of vegging out in front of the tv.
Random acts of kindness have been shown to increase well-being, not only in a receiver but in the giver. Feeling blue? Pick one unexpected act of kindness and do it right away. See how you feel afterwards.
Make this a regular habit and your mood and well-being will improve over time.
And it can be as simple as picking a bunch of flowers from your garden and presenting these to your next door neighbour.
Let Us Know…
Do you have any other gratitude exercises? Leave a comment for us and let us know how they work for you. Let’s share the mood!