The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life
Can a shift in attitude really change one's outlook? Is looking for the positive, even in the negative, a practical thing to do? Do our attitudes have an impact on those around us? Can we fight stress with gratitude?
According to author Janice Kaplan, a journalist and former Parade editor in chief,an attitude of gratitude can have far-reaching effects. It can even improve one's mental health, marriage, personal relationships and career. Kaplan isn't talking about some pie-in-the-sky Pollyanna way of looking at life. In fact, the ideas and suggestions she proposes are based not only on extensive research and insights from experts in the field, but also from her own year-long journey into the attitude of gratitude.
Kaplan had recently concluded a survey on gratitude funded by the John Templeton Foundation. She found that although more than 90 percent of those Americans surveyed thought that people who are grateful lead a better quality of life, less than half said "they expressed gratitude on any regular basis." She wondered why people didn't bother to put into practice what they believed.
"Learning how to develop an attitude of gratitude isn't rocket science; any of us can learn to practice it in our own lives. I'm just grateful that Kaplan wrote this book and shared her experiences with her readers."
Kaplan’s personal epiphany began at a New Year's Eve party. Though she had much to be grateful for, she felt that something was missing from her life. She seemed dissatisfied and knew she had no reason to feel that way. Consequently, she decided to see if an attitude of gratitude could improve her life over the course of one calendar year. Being a journalist, she launched her gratitude project with plenty of research into the field of mental health. What she found --- that gratitude has a real impact on mental health and happiness --- was just the impetus she needed to send her on her personal journey.
First came the keeping of a gratitude journal, where each day Kaplan wrote down three things for which she was grateful. This made her more aware of the little things that are often overlooked in the hustle of everyday life. She began showing more appreciation towards her husband for the things he did for her, like getting up early on the weekend to make her French toast. She noticed the birdsong outside her window and heard the crunch of snow under her feet once she reminded herself to pay attention. The more she focused on being grateful, the more things she found to be grateful for.
Kaplan learned to pay close attention to her thoughts and words, which were in effect her spoken thoughts. Our worrisome thoughts can send us into a downward spiral pretty quickly if we let them. And if we listen to our gloomy talk often enough, we can easily convince ourselves that we have good reason to be miserable. It's all in the attitude, the developing of gratitude.
Kaplan discovered scientific research that shows how negativity affects our physical and mental health. Without going into a detailed explanation here, a huge benefit of gratitude is that it lowers stress. In and of itself, that is a pretty important reason to learn to look on the bright side of life and appreciate the good things. Any time we can counteract even slightly the negative impact of living in a fast-paced, very stressful world seems like a good thing to attempt.
THE GRATITUDE DIARIES is full of many examples of how Kaplan changed her thoughts and attitudes over the course of one calendar year. Learning how to develop an attitude of gratitude isn't rocket science; any of us can learn to practice it in our own lives. I'm just grateful that Kaplan wrote this book and shared her experiences with her readers.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on August 21, 2015