Welcome to ’52 Weeks of Gratitude’. I’m so pleased you’re here. Your presence tells me that perhaps you’re ready to make some changes in the direction of a better quality of life. The good news is that unlike self-development courses or personal therapy sessions, this challenge requires minimal time or effort in order to see significant results (& it’s absolutely free!). Research has shown that even the smallest of gratitude practices can have a profound effect on our social, mental & physical well-being. So, welcome dear friend…let’s get started.
What is it all about?
The ’52 Weeks of Gratitude’ challenge is a weekly challenge to assist you to be more mindful of your blessings, to be thankful for your good fortune & to bring your attention to the simple pleasures you already enjoy everyday sometimes without really noticing them.
In a society saturated by social media it is easy to look at the perfectly manicured lives of your Facebook friends or favourite Instagrammers & wonder how their lives seem so positive & abundant. Well, nothing is ever quite as it seems. We all have our dramas, we all carry our burdens around with us everyday & we all come up against situations in our lives that test our resolve. The key to whether we thrive instead of just survive is how we rise to meet them. Do we just sit & wait until our problems are magically solved? (Not gonna happen) Do we wallow in self pity? (I guarantee you will still be in exactly the same or even worse psychological place in 1 month, 1 year, 10 years from now…what sort of existence is that?) Do we let ourselves indulge in envious thoughts & see the world as a hostile or unfair place, wondering how it came to be that we have been so hard done by? (I don’t think I need to tell you how that’s going to leave you feeling.) I don’t want any of that for you & I’m pretty sure you don’t want any of that for yourself either.
Yes, there are things we want, places we want to go, goals we’ve set for ourselves & an ideal future self or setting. But happiness does not dwell in the future nor in these things or destinations. It lives in your direct experience & appreciation of what is right in front of you; you simply have to pay attention.
All you have to do to prepare for this challenge is start where you are, with exactly what you’ve got. Which, if you look hard enough, is actually quite a lot. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. It’s time to make this your default perspective. Transformation begins within.
What is Gratitude?
The Collins Dictionary defines gratitude as ‘a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation’. Let’s take a look at those & a few other related words that spring to mind…
Thankful: conscious of benefit received
Appreciation: an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something
Recognition: the act of accepting that something is true or important
Value: to believe that someone or something is important or useful
This gratitude thing sounds like a noble & rewarding quest, doesn’t it?
What are the benefits?
A long-term study performed by UCA on the power of gratitude reported many amazing results. As a result of keeping a gratitude journal and practicing gratitude on a regular basis, the research showed that people who did so received the following benefits:
- Higher levels of health, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic.
- More likely to have made progress towards important personal goals.
- Higher levels of positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
- Better sleep at night and more energy throughout the day.
- Rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.
- More likely to acknowledge a belief in the inter-connectedness of all life and felt a commitment and responsibility to helping others
- Less likely to judge success in terms of possessions accumulated; less envious of wealthy people; and are more likely to share their possessions
(Source: UCA, HealthWatch & The Gratitudes)
The following articles also describe the many benefits of gratitude:
- The Benefits of Gratitude – Happier Human
- The Benefits of Gratitude – Psychology Today
- 5 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude – Newsweek
- 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year Round – Forbes
- Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful – David Steindl-Rast’s viral TEDTalk
How do I participate?
I will post a different theme each week over on the on SLM’s Instagram, Twitter & Facebook pages. The topic will be a broad area or aspect of your life to focus on & investigate in order to mine the treasures that may not be obvious but are still working their subtle little magic on you in some way.
Your task is to keep this theme in the back of your mind throughout the week & be mindful of the positive thoughts or observations that it brings up for you. These might be things you already recognise or have known for a long time, or they could be new insights that offer a different perspective. It’s that simple.
If you’re feeling energetic or are creatively inclined, here are some of the ways you might like to record & share what you find during the week:
- Write a blog post
- Post a picture on Instagram or Tumblr
- Share your gratitude in a Facebook status update or page post
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Ask a friend
- Say thank you
- Send me your thoughts / experiences
That’s it. One grateful thought, once a week. (Although I suspect once you start thinking about each prompt & looking for evidence of the good things in your life, you will find many more…feel free to post them all!)
If you’re sharing online, feel free to use the #52weeksofgratitude hashtag so I can find, appreciate & share your blessings! I’ll be posting about each weekly topic right here on the blog & sharing any relevant or interesting resources & links.
Read for Yourself
A list of empirical research papers on the subject of gratitude:
- Why Gratitude is Good – University of California (Berkeley)
- In Praise of Gratitude – Harvard Medical School
- Counting Blessings Versus Burdens – Greater Good
- Gratitude & Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation – Psychiatry Journal
If you’re interested in measuring your progress, you may wish to use the Gratitude Questionaire-Six Item Form to establish a baseline before you begin & test yourself periodically throughout the challenge.