If you are looking for the single most reliable link to life satisfaction, look no further. Gratitude is the single most important character strength for life satisfaction. After 12 years of research, this is a solid empirical finding in Positive Psychology, the exciting new field of scientific study devoted to exploring human thriving and happiness. I’m guessing there aren’t many people out there who would intellectually doubt this finding but how many of you would like to do your own personal research just to be sure?
In my up coming Sustainable Happiness Workshop Series on January 3rd, 2015, the participants will do two gratitude building assignments that have the potential to make a significant impression on them and their life satisfaction. I know this can happen because I’ve done these assignments myself. The first is called the Three Blessings Exercise and it is done every day for one week. Initially, it may sound familiar to you but stay tuned because it has a unique aspect to it. At the end of each day, record three things that took place in the day you just lived that you consider a blessing or a good thing. It can be major or minor and anywhere in between. Then…here’s the unique twist…go back to number one, two and three and ask yourself, “What was my part in this blessing coming to me?” We tend to think that good things happen to us or blessings flow to us because of something external to us and we had no direct bearing on its arrival in our day, in our life. Certainly, I agree there are other people and other forces at work. Nevertheless, I’m suggesting you step out of your typical thinking and ask, “What part did I play?” At first it may seem like a struggle and then, you’ll get very good at identifying your part in your own blessings. And guess what? It’s quite the fabulous finding! Upon this realization, your awareness is suddenly raised. You discover that in some way, you are an important participant in most of your own blessings and therefore, in the frequency and sustainability of your gratitude. Remember the research finding? Gratitude leads to life satisfaction and happiness more than any other character strength. Even, when at first, you can’t come up with the answer to your part in your blessing, keep asking and when it comes, write it down next to the blessing you’ve recorded. By way of illustrating, here are a few of the entries I made when I first started this practice in December of 2003.
Blessing #1: Phone message from my daughter telling me she loved me.
My Part? She has learned how much this means to me because I’ve told her so, each time she reaches out to me in her busy life to express love to me.
Blessing #2: People sharing my joy about the amazing article published today in The Hunt magazine about Erin’s Myofascial Release work with horses.
My Part? I made the choice to tell some friends and clients about my joy and how proud I was of my daughter. They responded by sharing in my joy because they were given the opportunity to do so.
Blessing#3: Paulette opened up to me about her grief and allowed me to comfort her.
My Part? She knows I understand grief at a deep level because of profound losses I’ve shared with her and she feels safe with me when expressing her authentic emotions.
Blessing #4: I got to see the sunset in my favorite location today!
My Part? My devotion to mindfulness and present moment living. My love of Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Sometimes it’s not possible to find your part in your blessing. For example:
Blessing #5: Bert was in a car accident today and she’s basically unharmed.
My Part? I have no part. It was guardian angels, no doubt.
Doing this exercise for one week can certainly get your attention and be meaningful. It can help build your gratitude. My hope is that readers and workshop attendees will choose to go beyond one week and make it a gratitude building practice in their life. This simple practice can transform your day and who knows, maybe even your level of life satisfaction.
I’ll be back with another gratitude building idea that will fill you and someone you know with immense gratitude.