Happy SMART Day Everyone!
The most important practice to living SMART 365 is to feel thankful and grateful on a daily basis. Luckily, it is also one of the easiest. Once you begin to put gratitude at the top of your daily to-do list, you will immediately begin to see positive changes in the way you look at your life. My own experience shows it is impossible to be truly grateful and unhappy at the same time. But I’m not alone in my thinking; these days there are books and studies that prove that the science of gratitude can profoundly increase the quality of your life.
A solid piece of evidence to support the value of gratitude is a series of studies done by Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. The tests he and other researchers have done are simple examples of some of benefits of being thankful. These tests mainly asked participants to keep a daily gratitude journal and jot down only five things a day that they were thankful for before going to bed. In contrast, a control group was asked to write down five things that had hassled them that day. At the end of the test time, Emmons found that:
- The thankful group felt significantly better about their life as a whole and more optimistic about the future.
- According to a scale they were 25% happier than the “hassle group;”
- They reported fewer health complaints like colds or flu;
- They exercised (nearly 1.5 hours) more;
- Got more sleep and had better sleep quality;
- Were less materialist;
- Felt more connected to others;
- Were more likely to help others;
- Higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles;
- Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions;
Why should such profound benefits come from such a simple practice? I believe because it teaches us to sharpen our focus and start looking for the good. Obviously, the practice requires more than merely listing a couple of things over and over and over that we are grateful for in our lives. Focusing asks us to look for, detail and somewhat relive each experience. In the end, it requires that we avoid taking any of what happens to us for granted and to see our lives in a larger context. In fact, by viewing the events and experiences of our life as gifts that we record, we allow them to transform our lives into a positive flow of meaning, wonder and purpose. And how could we not be grateful for that?
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G. K. Chesterton