One of the biggest blocks to my ability to be creative and productive is anxiety and fear. Personally speaking, anxiety and fear can cripple my ability to be productive in my work, which brings me extraordinary unhappiness. In the positive psychology certification program, I took through The Flourishing Center last fall we learned about the power of a gratitude practice, the science behind it and a formula to make it a powerful tool to help me interrupt fear, anxiety and negative thought patterns. Let's chat about what gratitude is, what studies have shown it correlates to and how to use it.
Let's Define Gratitude:
1st: "A sense of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift whether the gift be a tangible benefit from a specific other or a moment of peaceful bliss evoked by natural beauty." -Peterson & Seligman, 2004, P. 554
2nd: "Something you feel when you feel you have been the recipient of someone or something else's positive actions." -Peterson & Seligman (2004)
Gratitude and appreciation studies have shown correlations with gratitude practices and a list of very positive things such as...
- More Life Satisfaction
- More Prosocial and others centered behavior
- Less maladaptive self-preoccupation
- Better sleep and vitality
- More optimism
- Boosted immune system
- Decreased blood pressure, stress hormones, and depression
- Increased positive mood and general well-being
- Positive gratitude and appreciation emotions produce coherent and smooth rhythms. This enhances communication between the heart and the brain.
What are ways you can use gratitude as a tool? I try to gratitude journal a little bit every day in my morning pages. Keep in mind a gratitude practice doesn't work if we think we have things in our life that we "should" be grateful for but don't actually have the feeling of gratitude. If you're not actually feeling grateful for anything skip this practice that day or do it later when you can feel the feeling of gratitude. Then once you know you're feeling the feeling of gratitude think of three things you're grateful for and then include three things; what you're grateful for, why you're grateful for it, and what you did to bring it into your life.
I use this practice often when I start thinking about things I'm anxious or worried about and feel myself getting caught in a negative thought loop. When that happens I pull out my journal and start thinking about all of the things I'm grateful for, all of the things I have that are going well, why I'm grateful for them and what I did to bring them into myself. It helps me tremendously and I hope that this practice will help you too!
Here is a PDF called the Daily Dozen Created by Deb Griffen in 2015 to help you build your positivity and effectively problem solve. This uses the principles of a gratitude practice to boost mood.
What do you think? Will this practice help you with fear or anxiety? Is this a practice you already employ? Let us know how you use gratitude.