Count your blessings

Some psychologists believe we all have an intrinsic level of personal happiness we constantly revert to after experiencing the highs and lows of life. Other experts contend that contentment is something we can cultivate by practicing a certain skill set. For instance, numerous studies have found that, by counting our blessings, we can help ourselves achieve a state of peaceful happiness. All that is required is that we maintain a weekly journal that contains notations of the things for which we are grateful. If possible, jotting down a daily list of things that leave us feeling appreciative can help us feel less stressed, healthier and more optimistic about the future.

Research shows that the mere act of writing down things that we are grateful for actually physically alters the brain in ways that help us feel more content. Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons has discovered that gratitude is what gives life meaning. Emmons, a University of California at Davis professor, backs up his claim with eight years of research on gratitude in his book, “Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”

Emmons’ book reports on several studies. In the first, he and his colleagues divided participants into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. Another group described five daily hassles and a control group listed five events that had affected them in some way. In an experimental comparison, 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 (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).