We’ll kick off this series with an experiment that has been shown to increase our levels of happiness. (If you don’t know what this series is about you can read the intro here.)
For those of us in the Northern hemisphere winter is well and truly on it’s way, the European economy makes the Dickens era look glamorous and so a little cheering up might be just what we need.
This experiment was carried out by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. They found that people who listed 5 things they were grateful for, on a regular basis reported higher levels of happiness and felt more optimistic about life in general. Interestingly they also reported exercising more (which in itself has also been found to increase our level of happiness).
Why it works
Do you know how when we wear a new perfume we can really smell it on us, but after using it for a while we can hardly tell when we’re wearing it? Apparently just like we get used to our perfume, we’re also conditioned to get used to the good things in our lives. Keeping a journal about the things we’re grateful for is a way of reminding ourselves about the good things that already exist in our lives.
What to do
For the next 10 days, keep a gratitude journal. Write 5 things you are grateful for – it could be big things, like your relationship, or little things like managing to get the train in the morning.
Write your journal at the same time each day – to create a little routine.
The important thing is not to treat it as a chore. Further research showed that when people felt that they HAD to write the journal they got no benefit from it at all.
Before starting the journal, as well as 10 days after starting the journal, rate the following statements on a 1 to 10 scale as follows:
1: Very much unlike me, 5: Somewhat like me, 10: Very much like me
- In general I would consider myself a happy person
- I feel optimistic about what life holds in store for me
- I exercise for 30 mins at least 3 times a week.
- improved your ratings
- worsened your ratings
- there was no change