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Become more popular (DW#628)

An attitude of gratitude makes us more likeable and popular.

If you think about the opposite of a grateful person, the above claim makes sense. People who continuously grumble or complain about things are draining. Moreover, most of us when we encounter people who complain, feel compelled to point out their blessings to make them feel better. (this seldom works, by the way, but it does cause us to be exhausted!)

On the other hand, people who are grateful, notice the good in their lives, both in people and in circumstances. Such a person is more likely to be a positive person whose company is sort out by others as they may find themselves uplifted by the positive mood (rather than working to uplift other’s mood)

To put it in terms of psychology, gratitude generates social capital - namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse - among the individuals and families who make up a social unit. Studies have found that participants who were just 10% more grateful than...

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Strengthen your relationships and social bonds (DW#627)

An attitude of gratitude impacts relationships in many, and sometimes surprising, ways. Over the next few days, we will explore some of them.

Psychologists have begun to explore how gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. This is a very important area of research these days, given the recently discovered link between social relationships, wellbeing and longevity.

Several studies have shown that practicing gratitude can produce feelings of connectedness with others. Feeling gratitude towards people (even if not directly expressed) has the impact of feeling closer to them and reporting higher quality relationships with those people.

Experts like Robert Emmons hypothesize that when you become aware of the value of your friends and family, you are likely to treat them better, producing an "upward spiral," a sort of positive feedback loop, in which strong relationships give you something to be grateful for, and those feelings of...

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Gratitude keeps things fresh (DW#626)

Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. When something bad happens to us, after a while, we tend to get used to the new state of affairs and our happiness goes back to what it was before the negative occurrence.

This is good news, right?

This same tendency of adaptability can work against us when good things happen to us. When our circumstances change for the better – when we start earning more money, find a new love, buy a new car, recover from illness – we experience a boost in happiness and contentment. This boost in happiness though, is short lived. When the novelty or "newness" of this good fortune wears off, we get used to it and we get back to the same level of happiness (or unhappiness) that we were at before the good fortune.

Psychologists call this phenomenon hedonic adaptation. The dictionary defines hedonistic adaptation as the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness (or unhappiness) despite major...

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The states and traits of gratitude (DW#625)

Yesterday we talked about how focusing on gratitude even once a week can make us happier. Today, let us try and understand this a bit more.

Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude. And more gratitude means more happiness.

The truth is that the actual boost in gratitude and happiness by spending a 2-5 minutes writing a gratitude journal once a week is small. However, the state of gratitude and happiness felt during those five-minutes is enough to trigger a grateful mood.

And while we are in a grateful mood, we tend to feel gratitude more frequently. We tend to notice more things that are going well in our lives. Our focus changes from scarcity (what is missing) thinking to abundance (what we have) thinking.

In other words, the practice of gratitude triggers positive feedback loops. These feedback loops create recurring feelings of gratitude which tend to more intense and they last longer.

The repeated practice of gratitude has the power to change the initial state of gratitude into a...

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The 2-minute exercise to increase happiness by 25% (DW#624)

We have been hinting at how gratitude improves many markers of mental and emotional wellbeing. In everyday language, wellbeing markers simply mean how happy and satisfied you are.

Did you know that a very short practice of gratitude can boost our happiness levels by 25%?!

The very first study by Robert Emmons was very simple:

Three groups of people were asked to write a short journal entry once a week for ten weeks.

The groups had to briefly describe in a single sentence:

(Group 1) Gratitude condition: five things they were grateful for
(Group 2) Hassles condition: five things they were displeased about
(Group 3) Events condition: five neutral events

Here is how Emmons reported the results:

"What did the first study reveal? At the end of the ten weeks, we examined differences between the three groups on all of the well-being outcomes that we measured at the outset of the study. Participants in the gratitude condition felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic...

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Increase your “financial patience” (DW#623)

As we discussed yesterday, practicing gratitude can counteract our tendency to give up on goals if we do not get instant gratification.

Another very interesting study has looked into how the patience and perseverance developed by gratitude plays out in financial decision making.

David DeSteno of Northwestern University led a study where participants were asked to recall an event that made them feel grateful, happy, or neutral. After writing about this event, they reported their mood and then made a series of financial decisions.

The participants in the study had an interesting choice at the end of the session: they could either take a cash reward right there or they could choose to receive a larger amount of money in the mail at a later date.

The researchers found that those who had experienced gratitude were much more likely to wait for the bigger payout.

DeSteno reported that the "financial patience" of participants in the study had increased by about 12 percent just by recalling...

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Goal achievement on turbo (DW#622)

There is another, subtler reason why pausing and expressing gratitude in the midst of a project can help us get further along the path of goal achievement.

According to researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats, our brains release dopamine (the feel-good hormone) when we achieve goals. Makes sense that we feel good about our achievements, right?

Now, since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation(to get more of the feel good sensation), even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward. When we pause to give gratitude for the achievement, this good-feeling is magnified: first through achieving the goal and secondly by savouring the win through recalling it with gratitude.

This is why we need to stop and give thanks in the pursuit of a goal. If we acknowledge the small wins and milestones along the way, the winning feeling of achievement is deepened and magnified. And it will continue to propel...

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Increase motivation (DW#621)

Sometimes people who are high achievers begin to believe that they must only focus on the future target in order to achieve more. Focusing on what you already have and showing gratitude for it, they think, can leave you feeling complacent and would dampen ambition. In other words, "If I have enough, maybe I don’t need to achieve more."

This prevailing but unproven idea has been debunked by the research done by rock-star gratitude researchers Robert Emmons and Anjali Mishra.

This particular study involved students listing goals they hoped to reach over a two-month period. One group of students were asked to maintain a regular gratitude practice and the other group was not given this instruction. Ten weeks later, when the researchers checked back on the students’ progress, they found that grateful students were closer than others in the study to reaching their goals.

Emmons and Mishra concluded that "gratitude enhances effortful goal striving." In other words, it makes...

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A stress-busting practice (DW#620)

Research shows that gratitude activates our parasympathetic (the calming part of the) nervous system and this results in decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and therefore reducing stress.

The connection between gratitude and stress may not be immediately obvious. After all, why would my stress go down when I feel grateful for something?

Here are some possible explanations:

The directing of attention: Our brain can generally only focus on one thing at a time. When we intentionally move our attention away from stressful thoughts and instead direct it to a positive memory or experience, it can create a sense of wellbeing and cause us to let go of stress.

Recognizing support:When we direct your gratitude towards people, we recognize that we have been on the receiving end of love and support from people. We realize that we are not alone and that we have resources to deal with stress.

Switching away from automatic negative thinking:Stress is often caused by catastrophizing and...

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An antidote to worrying (DW#619)

Yesterday, we discussed how insomnia is a common ailment in modern times. Today’s let’s talk about another very common ailment of life in the 21stcentury: anxiety.

If you ever worry, have nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, know that you are not alone.

As humans, we are naturally inclined to worry about things. It may help to understand that although it does not feel good at the time, worrying can actually have a calming effect on the limbic system of the brain. When you are worrying, your mind feels like it is "doing something" about the situation by trying to see all of the possibilities or figure out a solution (often obsessively).

However, although understandable, worrying is uncomfortable and generally not productive. So do you want to consider a way both to feel good AND give your brain something to do to keep it occupied? If so, consider interrupting the anxiety/worry spiral by asking yourself one or...

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