Tag Archives: Happiness

Gratitude – is it useful? Apparently, it is.

21 Oct

 “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero argued that from gratitude springs hope, kindness, courage, patience, generosity, wisdom, wisdom and so on. So is it possible that simply by practising gratitude, we could improve our lives? Be more content?

Gratitude has been around in most world religions and philosophy for millennia and science is now catching up. Since Seligman’s announcement of 2000 the American Psychology movement has been researching Happiness of which an integral part of that research, under the direction of Dr Robert Emmons, has been on Gratitude; its nature, its causes and its impact on human health and well-being.

shutterstock_157123514

Here is a brief summary of Emmon’s research findings:

· Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

· 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.

· A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison.

· Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.

· Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

shutterstock_116334769

So it seems the evidence is pointing towards the possibility that, when people express their gratitude and are of a grateful disposition, people tend to have higher levels of subjective well-being or happiness and are generally less stressed. They suffer less with feelings of depression or anxiety and self-worth issues. They tend to be more independent, learn well from life’s lessons, develop healthy coping strategies, are more generous, sleep better, have a greater sense of fulfilment. People who exercise gratitude also appear to have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to try to avoid the problem, deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use.

Gratitude has been said to have one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait. Numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression. In one study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life (Seligman et. all., 2005). Out of these conditions, it was found that the biggest short-term effects came from a “gratitude visit” where participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life. This condition showed a rise in happiness scores by 10 percent and a significant fall in depression scores, results which lasted up to one month after the visit. Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment. In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.

shutterstock_143170855

What makes gratitude the parent of all other virtues? Well if we takea look at Albert Ellis’s model of CBT, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), it has a strong basis in stoic philosophy and he, as the Stoics, recognised that we disturb ourselves by the beliefs we hold about events. REBT’s theory identifies four beliefs that generally lead us to disturb ourselves. They are:

* Demanding something must or must not be (when it blatantly is).

* Awfulising the end of the world catastrophe when the demand is not met.

* Low Frustration Tolerance to the unberableness of what is happening or is not happening with thoughts like “ It’s unbearable, I cannot stand it”

* Self. Other or World Damming

So practising gratitude helps us to maintain a wider perspective , keeps us from “awfulising” beliefs that lead us to think the world is about to come to an end when the washing machine breaks down. Gratitude helps us to recognise that our first world problems are exactly that, first world problems and our lives do not depend on their resolution. By stopping our “awfulising” beliefs we reduce our feelings of anxiety and experience greater sense of physical ease, in turn we are able to feel more comfortable, reducing our “Low Frustration Tolerance” to discomfort or the unbearableness of our situation.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” ~ Epictetus

Ways to Practice Gratitude

Before you implement a gratitude practice, there are a few things you should know that might help:

Remember, the goal is to actively practice gratitude, not just wait around to feel grateful. It doesn’t matter exactly how often you practice gratitude; what matters is that you do it routinely. Every day, once a week, three times a week–whatever works for you, just keep it consistent.

* Gratitude journal: This is the most common gratitude practice, and one of the most effective according to research. Get yourself a journal and write down 5 things you are grateful for. Try not to repeat items too often. You can do this each night before bed, or once a week, but do it regularly. It’s not how often you do it that counts—it’s how regularly.

* Gratitude Letter & Visit: Think of someone who has made a powerful impact on your life, write a letter of gratitude, and then visit and read it to them in person is the most powerful gratitude exercise you can do according to Seligman’s research.

* Say “Thank You” more often. Just start saying it. For everything. Everyone likes to be thanked, and you will feel more joy just for saying it.

* Write Thank You Notes. When someone touches your heart, write them a note. “Thanks for being a great friend” is simple but very effective. Texts and emails are good second best.

Thank you for reading this

Self-esteem, relationships and our happiness

6 Mar

Do you know what things in life make you happy? More often than not, if we sit and think about that question, we often start to wonder what “happiness” really is…But that’s a different blog post.

Two important factors in our happiness are our own self-esteem and our relationships.

Self-esteem and relationships have a massive role in our happiness

Self-esteem and relationships, two factors of your happiness

 

The Happiness Survey

Measuring your happiness is tough, but that was something the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and Top Sante magazine attempted to do with a jointly held “happiness survey”.  The results showed that there are many influences on our happiness, but ultimately, we feel how we think. So, when unpleasant things happen or when we experience frustration and difficulty,  we have two sets of beliefs about them. Healthy or rational beliefs about the unpleasant things provoke sadness, annoyance or even regret, while unhealthy ones provoke unhealthy negative feelings anxiety, depression, guilt hurt etc.

You can read more on the Happiness survey here:

https://thehypnotherapyteam.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/a-happy-survey/

 

Relationships

Our emotional state can have a big impact on our relationships, if your thoughts or beliefs about your partner are unhealthy, then your relationship will become unhealthy too. When it comes to relationships, we must remember that we are ultimately responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, our behaviours and the types of relationships we tolerate and or enjoy.

You can read more about investing in your relationships here: https://thehypnotherapyteam.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/investing-in-your-relationships/

Self esteem

There are many factors that play a part in our own self-esteem. In a previous blog post we explored these in more detail, see our post https://thehypnotherapyteam.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/all-about-self-esteem/

Our own self-esteem can have a positive impact on other aspects of our lives, such as our relationships and happiness, but a low self-esteem can have equally as powerful negative impact on these areas of our lives.

Throughout life we all need to use different tools to take control and deal with self-esteem issues.  This can be hard, especially if you are the type of person who struggles with low self-esteem. The College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy is running a Master Class in dealing with self-esteem issues (the previous master class was very popular). For more information on this master class and the things and tools you will learn from it, please visit http://www.ccbh.org.uk/master-classes/solving-self-esteem-problems

 

Feel how you think…

The way in which we think is ultimately the way we feel. If we feel good, then our self-esteem, our relationships and our overall happiness all benefit.

A Happy Survey

9 Dec

Recently in a survey we held with Top Sante, we attempted to measure people’s happiness. A tricky one you may wonder, how do you measure happiness? Well to answer that, we need to know what happiness is.

Happiness

How happy are you?

Happiness is a reactive response to circumstances – we aren’t happy, for  example, when we stub our toe. Often “happiness” measurements in the field of psychology are a measure of wellbeing or our quality of life. Demanding to be in a constant state of happiness is just not possible – it’s essentially inconsistent with our own reality. So in essence, “happiness” is a choice we make about how we feel about our quality of life and our wellbeing, both mentally and physically. With this in mind, we were able to create a number of questions, grouped together, in order to measure our “happiness”.

Here are some interesting points from the survey….

Cheerful and in good spirits

One of the questions within the survey made a basic statement, “I feel cheerful and in good spirits”, to which the respondents had 6 options to answer. A good result from this question was that no one answered “Almost Never” to this statement, phew. Interestingly the majority of those questioned (38%) opted for the “Somewhat Frequently” response, while 18% answered “Almost Always” – lucky them…

Curiously as we get older it seems we are more likely to opt for the “Somewhat Frequently” response, with 10 times as many 36-40 year olds opting for this response compared with 18-25 year olds.

I enjoy new activities

Our happiness is not just about our emotional health and well-being, it’s also about our physical well-being. To get a sense of physical well-being, our survey asked how much “I enjoy new activities”.

Here it seems the younger we are, the more likely we are to enjoy new activities, perhaps that saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes from us not wanting to try new things as we get older. However, these results could also mean that as we get older we know what we enjoy and equally, we know the kinds of activities we won’t enjoy. Again, the “Somewhat Frequently” response was the most popular (38% respondents selecting this option).

Feel how you think

When unpleasant, frustrating things happen, we can hold two sets of beliefs about them. Healthy or rational ones lead us to feel sad, annoyed perhaps even regretful, while unhealthy or irrational beliefs lead us to feel anxious, depressed or self denigrating. If we have healthy beliefs, then we will be able to move on, and be happy again.

Another important aspect to our emotional and mental well-being is monitoring our progress in life. It’s good for us to set regular time for personal reflection, to check how we are doing and to ensure we haven’t regressed into some old habits, or ways of thinking we are trying not to do. If we are progressing well, then we will be happier with our day to day lives and our accomplishments.

The way in which we think, is the way we feel. So essentially, we are saying that happiness is a choice you can make…