Five minutes to positivity

“Gratitude is one of the most neglected emotions and one of the most underestimated of the virtues” –Robert Solomon

Every October, Canadians give thanks and gratitude to friends and family with turkey and sore stomachs. Whether it’s the pie, the stuffing, or the presence of loved ones, the day is presented with joy and happiness. But what if we celebrated our life each and every day?

 The Five Minute Journal

 The Five Minute Journal is a place to be grateful each morning and each night of the little things in life. Each page includes a daily quote, a daily affirmation, and asks the writer to consider three things he or she is grateful for: three things that would make the day great, three amazing things that happened, and ways to make today better. Sometimes it’s just a fireplace to cuddle up beside or finding a dollar on the ground. The idea is to draw on positive emotions rather than negative ones.

What is gratitude?

In The Psychology of Gratitude, David Steindl-Rast defines gratitude as ‘‘an act of heightened and focused intellectual and emotional appreciation.’’ However, researchers and psychologists argue there isn’t one definition that encapsulates gratitude.

The many benefits of gratitude

In a study done in 2003 by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, participants were separated into three groups. One group was to ‘count their blessings’ each day so researchers could see the psychological and physical effects of gratitude. The second group recorded hassles, and the third group recorded major events.

From this paper, which included multiple studies on gratitude, it was found that being grateful each day not only increases positive emotions but decreases negative ones, improves sleep, improves physical health. Participants were also more likely to exercise regularly.

Gratitude and materialism

Although gratitude can derive from gift giving, researchers found that gratitude and materialism do not go hand in hand. In a study, called “More gratitude, less materialism: The mediating role of life satisfaction”, done by Florida State University and William Paterson University, researchers found that being grateful led participants to feel highly satisfied in life and have lower materialism. The Journal of Positive Psychology published the results showing that higher satisfaction in life actually “mediated the relationship between gratitude and materialism.” On the contrary, low gratitude coincided with high materialism.

Self-induced positivity

Being grateful and counting your blessings is something that doesn’t cost money, or take long. Yet gratitude and appreciation are “one of the most concrete and easiest of the positive emotions to self-induce and sustain for longer periods of time,” according to Rollin McCraty Ph.D., of HeartMath Research Center. By shifting focus from negative to positive emotions, a person’s heart rate will change sending messages to the cognitive and emotional areas of the brain. Creating what could be referred to as a mind shift can allow people with depression, anxiety or even anyone just having a bad day to push aside the negative thoughts and replace these with self-induced happiness and positive emotions. HeartMath techniques are based on mind shifts and the self-induction of positive emotions.

Though stressors are inevitable, positivity is just five minutes away. By acknowledging the good and releasing the bad, you can not only live a happier life, but as well, learn to cope by adding a dose of gratitude to your daily life.