So confession, this post is just a vehicle for me to share a beautiful TedTalk I saw this week. It did however, get me thinking about gratitude – an idea that is so simple, yet, at least for me, something I have trouble doing in an authentic way.
I am currently reading the How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky – as part of a Positive Psychology Coaching course. There is a concept that is shared in this book that kind of hits the nail on the head for me with regard to why my gratitude practices thus far have fallen flat, and that is - hedonic adaptation. You may very well ask what is hedonic adaptation! It is the process by which humans become rapidly accustomed to sensory or physiologic changes. For example, I finally lose those 10 pounds and feel great, but that great feeling rapidly deteriorates because I get used to being 10 pounds lighter…it is my new normal (FYI those 10 pounds are entirely theoretical!)
Hedonic adaptation affects gratitude practices because many of the things for which we should be able to summon up gratitude for, such as access to clean water, healthcare, etc. are our normal. In a study conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky it was discovered that those who practiced gratitude weekly – as opposed to three times a week – were the only group to experience increased happiness. It was theorized that those who practiced gratitude three times a week became bored, thus adapting to the practice.
So what does this mean for those of us for whom gratitude practices don’t come naturally? Well at the end of the day, research shows that gratitude improve happiness. The question then becomes - how do we engage in these practices, keep if fresh and boost our own happiness? Sonja Lyubomirsky recommends finding what works best for you with regard to how you show gratitude, mix it up, and figure out a practice frequency that feels right for you. Whether that is expressing gratitude directly to another, writing in a journal once a week, or connecting with your artistic side and expressing gratitude via photography, painting or drawing, it is entirely up to you. The bottom line is there is no right way or wrong way to create a gratitude practice.
This leads me to express my gratitude for this TedTalk by Louie Schwartzberg called Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. On a gray and dreary day it brought me a sense of joy, connection, and humility. Enjoy!