Thanksgiving is the season of gratitude, and the perfect time to talk about the effects of gratitude on creative thinking. I understand that it is not always easy to feel grateful, but there are exercises which, I’ll explain later, that can help you live a life of gratitude.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is showing thankfulness and appreciation. Living a life of gratitude means you have incorporated the traits of thankfulness and appreciation into your personality and your attitude. Skip Prichard – author, business leader, and lifelong student of success – stated in his blog post A Way of Life, “People who live with an attitude of gratitude are known to live longer, sleep better, and have increased productivity and happier lives.”
Furthermore, it’s not happiness that makes people grateful, it’s the opposite. People that live a life of gratitude create their own happiness, and this is the connection to improving your creativity. When you are happy and calm, your brain creates neurotransmitters called serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. These are your brain’s boosters for creative thinking. They activate the parts of your brain that search for unusual connections and think outside-of-the-box to solve problems.
Following are several resources for you to practice and develop a life of gratitude:
- Follow the Greater Good Science Center’s monthly calendar with daily tasks for practicing gratitude and compassion. Trying to do one act of gratitude is rewarding and the calendar opens your eyes to the myriad of ways you can incorporate it into your life.
- Start a gratitude journal, also known as the Five Minute Journal. This journal was made popular by the podcaster, Tim Ferriss, when he explained how it simplified his life and made him happier. Each morning, write three things you would like to accomplish for the day. Things that, if completed, would make you feel that you won the day. At the end of the day, before you go to bed, spend five minutes writing how you did on your accomplishments. Then, close your daily journal entry with three things for which you are grateful. It’s a great way to close your day and put your day in perspective.
- Create reminders of things for which you are grateful. The idea is to write a few words or a short sentence describing something that brings you happiness, something that has happened for which you are thankful, or something you are grateful for in your life. After you have written your gratitude reminders, put them in or on something for easy reference. Pinterest has great ideas for different types of gratitude reminders. Try searching for gratitude rocks, gratitude trees, gratitude tokens, and gratitude jars.
- The most powerful task you can complete is to write a letter of gratitude. This not only increases your level of gratitude, it also increases someone else’s level and deepens your attitude of gratefulness. The positive effects of this gratitude exercise were researched and carried out by Kent State professor Steve Toepfer, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies. The results from this study are quite straightforward. If you wish to increase your gratitude and happiness levels, then intentionally script letters to inspiring people in your life.
A gratitude letter is a letter you write to someone specific, explaining why you are grateful for them. It could be something they did or how they make you feel. Next, meet with the person face-to-face, if possible, or by phone or video conference. Finally, read the letter to them. You can find specific instructions for crafting your gratitude letter and for delivering it at this link.