Sunday, May 23, 2010

Post-Divorce Gratitude

People who are more grateful are happier. It’s simply a fact. So I’m thinking that in the post-divorce unhappy period, why not practice gratitude in the hopes of being happier?

But how to be more grateful? Sonja Lyubormirsky gives the how-tos in her book the How of Happiness. I wanted to highlight a few ideas here and you can also see another blog and newsletter I’ve written about the subject.

I like five of the ways Lyubormirsky shows that gratitude is thought to actually increase happiness. These include savoring the positives in your life, feeling better about yourself as a result, feeling more connected with others who contribute to the positives in your life, reducing the envy and jealousy which are incompatible with gratitude and actually starting to feel more positive about the good things we have. Not only are these good things for everyone, but post-divorce they’re particularly useful. They counter the natural self-esteem drops (I must be inadequate for not making the marriage work) and envy increases (look at that happy family, and that one, and that one) which many experience.

The typical way to practice gratitude is the gratitude journal written daily, a few times a week or weekly, depending on your personal needs. Thinking about gratitude without writing about it is another way to practice. And an interesting twist is to think about something for which you are not grateful, e.g., the ungrateful thought that your kids never spontaneously tell you they love you. Then counter it with a grateful thought about how they do spontaneously hug you or call you.

Another really potent approach is to tell someone the reasons you are grateful to them, by letter or in person. Even just writing a gratitude letter without giving it seems to increase happiness.

Finding a gratitude buddy is helpful to some. Being accountable to someone else may increase your chances of sticking to a gratitude plan. Sharing something you’re grateful for with another person is also a way of enhancing our own experience of gratitude.

Earlier this evening I mentioned to my son how much I love the smell of dusk at this time of year; he enthusiastically said he felt the same which was very pleasing to me. Okay, I choose to think he was being serious though I recognize he may have been slightly sarcastic (yeah mom, I smell another one of your hokey positive psychology interventions).

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