Monday, November 2, 2009

Gratitude List Project

positive psychology gratitude list exercise
Couldn't we all use some more optimism?
Back in 2008, I printed 250 "positive thinking" cards using VistaPrint's free business card service. Why? Because I wanted a somewhat whimsical project that would compel others to reflect on the good fortune in their lives. Since then, I've placed the cards in various states and countries on my own and via the help of friends and family.

My motivation: In 2007, I read a compelling academic paper on the psychological benefits of making a daily list about what one feels grateful for. I decided to give it a try, and later I decided to start this small project. Every now and then, I receive a great email out of the blue that contains someone's gratitude list.

The listing exercise requires writing daily about at least five things you feel grateful for. In order for the exercise to be fully effective, it is also important to attribute your gratitude to the actions of other people. The paper describes gratitude as having two parts: (1) the realization of experiencing something positive, whether it is deserved or not, and (2) attributing it to a source beyond yourself.  As a result, the entry "my dependable mini-fridge" would not be valid unless I added "which so-and-so generously gave to me," or credited my positive condition to another external source.

You can read both abstract and paper here: Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003, 84, 377-398.

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