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The Practice of Gratitude – Listening Fluency

01 октября 2013

Today the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting, my family is healthy, I have real friends that I care for deeply, and I’m drinking a cup of delicious coffee as I start my day. I truly have much to feel thankful for. On the other hand, I also have a lot of work to do, my car is making a troubling noise that probably is going to cost me money, the DJ next door has just started playing his music a little too loudly, and I’m feeling a bit worried about finding a new job.

According to positive psychologists, people who choose to regularly focus on the positive things over the negative things live happier lives. Martin Seligman is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and is also considered the father of positive psychology. Psychology often focuses on helping sick people, but the field of positive psychology attempts to help normal people become happier. In the 1980’s Seligman did research into personality traits and found that people who focused more on bad things and who had little appreciation for the good things in their life were less happy and less satisfied with life. It seems obvious, right? The more you focus on the good in your life, the happier you will be.

Seligman asked his students keep a gratitude journal, where they wrote down 5 things they felt grateful for every week for 10 weeks. At the end of the 10 weeks, his students reported less stress and more happiness. Seligman later had other students write letters of gratitude to special people in their lives. He then had them visit these special people and read them the letters out loud. This resulted in even higher levels of happiness and deeper connections between people.

The practice of gratitude or appreciation for the good things in your life can increase your happiness not just in the moment, but also long-term. Many people practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal. Try it out. Everyday, write down 3-5 things that you’re thankful for. This could be big things like getting a new job, or small things like the joke you just shared with your friend. It’s a cycle that builds upon itself. The more we practice feeling appreciation for the good things in life, the more we naturally start to notice good things.

Watch Seligman’s gratitude letter experiment re-created in the video below. Then leave us a comment saying who or what you’re grateful for today.

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude