August 8, 2012–I am now over 3 weeks into my Positive Psychology course, through Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. It’s a primarily on-line course, though next week will be one of the two week-long residencies at Kripalu in Lenox, MA (no blog posting next week). There are on-line lectures and reading assignments, along with reflection papers and online discussion groups. Already there have been lots and lots of “ah ha!” moments for me, lots of interesting new information, and lots of suggestions for practical ways to increase the positive in one’s life while reducing the effects of the negative.
One practice that has been transforming my week already is keeping a Gratitude journal. I know, I know, it sounds very “Oprah-esque,” and Oprah does, apparently, keep a Gratitude journal herself, but it’s based on research on how we can actually re-wire our brains to focus more on the positive. Gratitude, it turns out, is the single most effective emotion for transforming one’s outlook.
Research showed that of a group divided into 4 –one group recorded 5 things they were grateful for each night, one group recorded 5 hassles they’d experienced that day, one group simply noted events, and the 4th was the control, not asked to record anything. After 6 months, the group who kept a gratitude journal were significantly more happy, more healthy, more successful by a number of objective and subjective standards.
SO, I invite you to join me in this practice, even for a week. I think you’ll find that, knowing you’ll need to write down at least 5 things (or people) that night, during the day you’ll be on the lookout–Oh, look at that beautiful play of sunlight and shadow on the lawn! Isn’t that a beautiful bird song? After an unexpected but wonderful conversation with a friend, I noted that I wanted to remember to write that friend’s name in my journal that night.
As our instructor, Tal Ben-Shahar says, you go from being not just a “benefit-finder” but a “benefit-seeker.” What we focus on shapes the way we see–and experience–the world.
There will be lots more reflections on this course in the weeks and months to come. Bad things do happen to good people–to all kinds of people, for that matter–but there are ways of learning from and responding to those bad things that make the difference between being destroyed by them or growing from them. I hope this course will not only have beneficial effects on my life, but also on those with whom my life intersects.