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Entries from November 2010

The Power of Pollyanna–How Gratitude Can Improve Your Health, Happiness, and Well-Being

November 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

Pollyanna, the title character in a 1913 best-selling novel, has been given a bad rap.  The plucky little orphan played “The Glad Game,” and found something to be glad about in every situation. When she was sent to a cold, barren attic room by her stern aunt, she marveled at the view out of her window.  When facing possible paralysis,  she was grateful to have legs.  Eventually, Pollyanna transformed her whole New England town into a happy place.

Today, we use the term Pollyanna pejoratively, to mean a naïve person who refuses to see reality clearly, or whose optimism is ridiculously excessive.   It’s just not cool to be “Pollyannaish.”

Sometimes, we worry that if we focus on what’s right in our lives, we’ll get complacent.  We falsely believe that focusing on the negative will motivate us to change, and we’ll be more likely to create a better life, find a more fulfilling career, or a better relationship.  We tell ourselves that being happy right now with what we have is tantamount to giving up.

Nothing is further from the truth.  Turns out, Pollyanna was right!  The positive power of gratitude has been overwhelmingly proven by science. People who are consciously grateful are more energetic, more determined, think more clearly, think more methodically, make more progress towards goals, have more resilience during tough times, and are more optimistic, enthusiastic, and joyful. As if that wasn’t enough proof, the grateful are have fewer illnesses, greater immune response, and even exercise more.

If you want to make positive change in your life, aren’t those exactly the qualities you’d want to have on board?

Here are some simple suggestions to increase gratitude:

Write it down.

Take a few moments each day to write down a few things for which you are grateful.  Just before bedtime is a good time.  Note what made you smile or touched your heart, or contributed to your life.   After each item, jot down why you appreciate that thing or person.  This simple exercise has been proven to produce dramatic results.

Say it out loud.

Be generous with expressing your thanks. Tell the people in your life that you appreciate them.  You can be specific, “Thanks for inviting me to lunch,” or you can be as general, “I’m so glad you’re in my life.”  Do it in unexpected places.  It feels really good to thank the cashier at the grocery store for her help.

Be a gratitude artist.

Use your creative imagination to find new opportunities to be grateful.  Aren’t you grateful for cheap long distance telephone rates? When I was in college, I had to wait for the one pay phone in the dorm hallway, and talk fast, as long distance was a precious commodity.  Now, I pay a small monthly rate and use long distance all day long.  And with Skype, I can talk to people all over the world, for free!  I love my long distance and Skype; I’m truly grateful for these technologies.

Where can you be grateful in ways you haven’t thought of?  Are you grateful for the hot water in your morning shower, your breakfast, the refrigerator that keeps your food cold, and the internet which allows you to read this?

Love those thighs.

Instead of talking trash about your body, how about being grateful for it?  Your legs are magical and deserve your appreciation for taking you so many places.  How about appreciating your fingers which do such marvelous, magical things for you?   Can you appreciate your heart?  It never forgets to keep ticking.   Can you be grateful for the gym which is available even when you’re not enthusiastic about going there.

Play the Glad Game.

Challenge yourself to find reasons to be grateful for things that annoy you.  When you do this, the corner gas station is transformed into a marvelous and convenient source of fuel, water, and sweet snacks.  When you notice all of the safe driving that goes on in heavy traffic, your commute becomes a wondrous ballet of weaving cars.  Cars themselves are incredible forces of power and transportation.

Start slowly, then challenge yourself.

Finding appreciation and gratitude intentionally and in new ways may seem awkward and even silly at first.  Start with the easy, obvious places, and then gradually challenge yourself.  Be patient and allow yourself to get better with practice.

The payoffs are huge.  With gratitude, we can more easily create the lives, the careers,  and the relationships we dream of having.  Our energy soars, our creativity blossoms, our intelligence and our ability to problem solve increase. And, as an extra bonus, expressing gratitude to others has been proven to motivate them to treat you better.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to explore gratitude and appreciation.  When you get into it, you’ll realize how many people don’t commit crimes, how often you don’t fight with your partner, and how delicious silence is when the dog next door isn’t yapping.

So go ahead.  Give it a try.  Discover for yourself the Power of Pollyanna.

Tags: change