1. Practising Gratitude

The Three Blessings

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.

You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now. ~ Seligman, Martin.

A Gratitude Letter

The Process: Step. 1. Think of someone who has had a positive influence on your life, you are grateful to, but have not properly thanked. Step. 2. Write a letter to them describing your feelings and why you are grateful for them. Step. 3. If appropriate and plausible, deliver the letter to the person and consider reading it to them in their presence. Research: (Seligman et al., 2005) 

This is actually two interventions in one activity and each involves the use of multiple character strengths. The letter-writing activity alone is beneficial. To deliver the letter is another activity that requires bravery and probably many other strengths, such as zest, social intelligence, love, and perspective. 

Before delivering and reading your gratitude letter to someone, it is important to consider if this is necessary and appropriate for you to do. In addition, be prepared for any kind of reaction. While indeed the delivery and reading of a letter like this can be profoundly beneficial to the recipient, the writer, and the relationship, there is no guarantee that it will be positive. 

Some people expect nothing but a positive response to their heart-felt words but are left disappointed when they encounter a person who doesn’t know how to handle such a novel experience. Discussing the pros and cons of delivering the letter with a trusted confidant or practitioner can be a good preliminary step to delivering it. 

Research In a gold-standard research study of five positive psychology interventions and a placebo group, those participants randomly placed in a group to write a gratitude letter experienced the strongest initial increase in happiness, although the levels of happiness returned to baseline as the study progressed (Seligman et al., 2005). 

Just like some people take an anti-anxiety pill when they need a quick dose of calmness (e.g., before going on an airplane), this exercise might be useful for those clients looking for a quick boost in happiness. One study found that those who wrote a gratitude letter experienced a higher level of humility than those who performed a neutral activity (Kruse, Chancellor, Ruberton, & Lyubomirsky, 2014). Other studies have examined the conditions in which writing gratitude letters can be helpful. In one study, those who wrote gratitude letters each week for 8 weeks had a boost in happiness only if the person had an intrinsic desire to become happier (Lyubomirsky et al., 2011).

2. Using your Signature Character Strengths

2. Using your signature character strengthsWe believe that you can get more satisfaction out of life if you identify which of your character strengths you have in abundance and then use them as much as possible in work, in hobbies, and with friends and family. This link above (Using your signature character strengths) will give you access to a list of twenty four new ways of using your character strengths.

Find out the character strengths of your partner, friends and workmates using this link

3. An Acknowledgment Conversation

This conversation is about finding a way of expressing acknowledgment to another person so that the other person is left empowered by what you said. It isn’t about finding ways to compliment people, or getting people on-side by buttering them up. It is about expressing your experience of another’s value using the information that one’s actions have grateful significance; it infuses energy into the system.

4. Walking a minimum of 10,000 steps per day

Clearly, increasing your daily physical activity is more important than the actual number achieved. So where did this notion of 10,000 steps per day come from?

In 1965, Japanese company Yamasa Toki introduced their new step-counter, which they called Manpo-Kei. This translated into “10,000 steps meter” and they marketed their device with the slogan, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day.” Japanese walking clubs were fairly popular at that time and the idea of a 10,000-step target seems to have caught on because the slogan was catchy and people tend to like nice round numbers. The rest, as they say, is history.

The idea of 10,000 steps per day may have originally been a marketing slogan, but it does seem to be roughly useful. A sedentary but otherwise healthy person who does not exercise regularly might take about 6000-7000 steps per day in the course of their normal every day tasks. This is a rough average and it obviously varies from person to person, but is a useful estimate for our purposes. Now, a 30-minute walk will generally involve about 3000-4000 steps, depending on a person’s stride. So if you take a sedentary person, and get them to add 30 minutes of walking to the their daily routine, they will likely get to around 10,000 steps.

The official recommendations are precisely that. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times per week. Moderate physical activity is usually described as a brisk walk. A good rule of thumb is that you should be a little short of breath while walking or have a little difficulty carrying on a conversation with someone walking next to you for it to count as moderate intensity. So essentially measuring someone’s daily step count is a useful way to identify people who are more active from those who are more sedentary, which is why it tends to get used in research protocols where you want or need to measure people’s daily physical activity.

There are of course a number of problems with routinely measuring the 10,000 steps a day metric. One is you have to remember to actually wear the pedometer (every day and all the time) for the numbers be accurate. Studies have shown that compliance with devices like these wanes with time. Smart phones that measure your daily step count might make compliance easier given that most people carry their phones with them everywhere. But here too, leaving your phone on your counter while you do your household chores means that some of your daily steps are going uncounted. Suffice it to say, there is a certain margin of error to measuring step counts and there is a certain variability from person to person because everyone has a slightly different stride.

Finally, increasing your level of physical activity is almost always going to be for the good, regardless of what your initial step count. Increasing from 5000 steps per day to 9000 steps per day will likely yield important health benefits even though you fall short of the 10,000 step threshold. The focus should be on increasing your current level of physical activity, rather than comparing yourself to others. As the saying goes, the race is long and in the end it’s only against yourself.

Reprinted with permission of McGill University’s OSS. The original article can be found here

Gratitude exercises designed to have people flourish

Try and focus on being aware of different things you’re grateful for each day – i.e. don’t always notice the same things. Even though you may always feel grateful for the same things – for example, your family – looking for ‘fresh’ grateful moments helps in the practice of gratitudeBe aware of looking for specific things that you are grateful for – e.g. ‘today my husband cooked my favorite meal for dinner because he knew that I’d had a tough day’. Being specific really maximizes the benefits of gratitude practice.Look beyond the things that you are grateful for that may be immediately apparent. Looking for new things can help us best practice gratitude. 

Be creative! Enjoy the process!Be kind to yourself and be realistic about gratitude practice. Be aware of obstacles that might hinder your efforts to practice gratitude. So, if you are likely to feel extremely tired at night-time and you are trying to schedule in time to practice gratitude, it may be best to set aside some time in the morning. Be a little flexible with yourself and don’t put undue pressure on yourself to practice gratitude in a way that is simply not working for you!Keep gratitude fun! Try new and creative ways to keep track of your moments of thankfulness.

Try and make your gratitude practice social. It makes sense to think of others in practicing gratitude because it is our relationships with other people that are the most significant determinant of our happiness. According to expert Robert Emmons, making the focus of our gratitude the people we are thankful for, rather than particular circumstances or material items, can enhance our practice of gratitude and maximize the benefits of a gratitude practice. So, perhaps one idea you can use is to write a gratitude letter (this is explained in more detail later!) or share grateful moments from the day at the dinner table.

 

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