May is Mental Health Awareness month, and while many factors affect mental health, the practice of gratitude can have a positive impact. One simple way to practice gratitude is to notice the good things that occur in our personal and professional lives.
Psychologists researching gratitude asked participants in a study to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
As Jose Ortega y Gasset said, “Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.” Focusing attention on the positive rather than the negative can help you become someone with a more constructive outlook and better reactions to stressors.
Before you move on to your next email, jot down one positive thing that happened in the past week. Keep a notepad on your desk and add another positive thought tomorrow, and the next day, and … well, you get the idea! I would like to hear your results after a few weeks!