I am proclaiming 2008 to be the year of gratitude. I came to this conclusion after reading "Happier," by Tal-Ben Shahar which I picked up on a whim last October. Shahar proclaims that those who keep a daily gratitude journal – writing down at least 5 things they were grateful for every day – enjoy higher levels of emotional and physical well-being. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of the “grateful living concept,” but it was the first time I took it seriously. In the past, I felt gratitude journals were corny and a waste of time.
I started my own gratitude journal in late October and am proud to say I have not missed a day. It has been an insightful exercise with the greatest insight occurring on truly awful days when I am forced to find something positive, usually the little things, rather than dwell on negative events. It is amazing how easy I have found this exercise to be. Once I got started, I keep finding more and more things to be grateful for; many days my list well surpasses five items.
In going through my old journals, I discovered the following list (unfortunately I did not jot down the author) of the benefits of gratitude: 1. People that don’t fixate on material goods eventually cut back on envy and nagging comparisons. 2. Traumatic memories fade into the background for people who are regularly grateful. 3. Troublesome thoughts appear less frequently and with less intensity, which suggest gratitude may enhance emotional healing. 4. Thankfulness helps the brain fully process events. 5. Grateful people achieve closure by making sense of negative events so that they mesh with a generally positive outlook.
I am looking forward to continuing my gratitude journal in 2008.