Friday, February 26, 2016

Count Your Blessings! Guest Post

This week, I have a guest blogger which is my Mom, author of Count My Blessings: Gratitude Journal! Available here:

Numerous studies, in particular studies at The University of Utah and at University of California at Berkeley's The Greater Good Science Center, have documented tremendous benefits from even a short term gratitude practice, in particular of gratitude journaling. Enhanced immune system, reduction of pain and illness, lowered blood pressure and cholesterol are some of the health benefits which can accrue in a little as 8 weeks. Other conditions that are helped include depression, anxiety, PTSD  and insomnia. Relationships are strengthened by regular expressions of gratitude and teens engaged in a gratitude practice were found to experience a greater connection to their communities, higher grades and a greater likelihood of achieving future goals. 
Fortunately, gratitude awareness is an easily developed skill with regular, deliberate practice and journaling is an easy and fun way to get it started! 
Writing about one's feelings of gratitude has even been shown to restructure the brain according to Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas who noted that, "brain scans of individuals who practice gratitude have stronger brain structure for social cognition and empathy as well as the part of the brain that processes reward." It's powerful stuff! 
Another benefit that I've noted myself is that it helps during challenging times. I can go back through my journal and relive the experiences and feelings of gratitude because I've kept this record and that reminder does help me feel better on more difficult days.
 Some guidelines to get the most benefit-
It is important that the gratitude you are expressing is genuine and heartfelt. This is not a time to just list things you think you should appreciate or to tackle your journaling as a chore that must be completed.  Stop and think about each item,  focus on developing your awareness, the feelings of appreciation and gratitude are what you want to stir and they will come with thoughtful consideration. Then you are ready to write!
Freshness and variety will keep your practice exciting and alive!
Journaling seems to have optimal benefits with a frequency of once or twice a week. It doesn't have to be daily. I personally journal as inspiration strikes and not on a schedule at all!
There are many exercises to stimulate your awareness if you are stuck:
- a 15 minute gratitude walk, stopping to admire what you observe in nature can give you many ideas to journal about
- take a few days to work through the alphabet and be grateful for something that starts with each letter 
- pay out as many compliments as you can to others and journal about your feelings as you look for things to appreciate about the people around you
- write a thank you letter to someone who has really made a positive impact on your life, whether they are living or have passed on
- go through each of your senses, making note of something you are able to perceive and journal about your gratitude
I thank you for taking time to read this blog and it is my hope that you will benefit from considering these points!

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