November 24, 2015
For the week of Thanksgiving, try these strategies to ramp up your gratitude and increase your happiness!
Three Good Things Practice
For five to ten minutes a day (if you are having a bad one, then do this over lunch), think and write about three good things that have happened over the last 24 hours. “A 2005 study led by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that completing this exercise every day for one week led to increases in happiness that persisted for six months.”
Mental Subtraction Exercise
The song “Let Her Go” reflects our tendency to only appreciate some of the good things in our life when they are gone:
“You only need the light when its burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go.”
We can use this tendency to our advantage by practicing the mental subtraction exercise and imagine life without some of the beautiful experiences and people that surround us daily.
Take five to ten minutes a week to consider what life would be like if you weren’t blessed with your family, certain friends, educational or job opportunities, your country, your house, your car……
By imagining life without, we come to appreciate things we take for granted and this increases our happiness in the present moment!
Stop Hedonic Treadmills
The pleasant life is the good life—this is a common perception that keeps happiness just on the horizon of the next fun thing! Hedonic treadmills are a psychological term for the constant pursuit of pleasure in life. The problem with hopping on hedonic treadmills is that the more you indulge yourself the less pleasure you get—so the more you need to indulge yourself—called “hedonic adaptation.” Research has shown that abstaining from something you really enjoy for around 10 days will make you enjoy it more when you do allow yourself the indulgence. If you want to really enjoy something on thanksgiving, then give it up for the next couple of days and see how much better it is on Turkey day! (Hint: Give up chocolate—don’t give up being grateful!)
Do a “savoring walk” on Thanksgiving. Take a twenty minute walk on thanksgiving by yourself and take in your surroundings. Notice the beauty and (possibly people if you are walking in a pedestrian area) around you. Leave your phone in your pocket on silent or at home. Don’t let yourself be distracted by anything and focus on the moment and your environment.
A Gratitude Letter
You will be seeing people over thanksgiving that you don’t see everyday. If there is anyone in the crowd who you are grateful to, but don’t feel like you have every adequately thanked, write them a detailed gratitude letter to express what they have meant to your life! “The 2005 study led by Martin Seligman tested the effects of writing and delivering a gratitude letter, finding that, of the five different practices that the researchers tested, this practice had the greatest positive impact on happiness one month later. Those who delivered and read the letter to the recipient in person, rather than just mailing it, reaped the greatest benefits.”
Fostering a grateful outlook over Thanksgiving can be the start of a new habit that will bring greater satisfaction and happiness in your day to day life! Use this week as an opportunity to begin to “stop and smell the roses” as you smell the Turkey cooking in the oven!
What are you grateful for this thanksgiving or what do you take for granted that you want to savor?