–Michelle Segar, Phd
Today I want you to ask yourself not what you want to achieve in this program, but what, in your heart of hearts, you want to feel. Our goal is to identify a “why” for practicing gratitude that will motivate you over the long haul. This is MUCH easier for a gratitude habit than it is for, say, an exercise one, because there is a built in emotional motivation.
Before we dig into the emotions, though, we have to let go of our logical reasons for establishing this habit. Why? Because research shows that having a good, solid, logical reason for doing something—like wanting to improve your health and longevity—won’t usually motivate us over the long haul.
So look back at yesterday’s worksheets. Which SINGLE benefit of a gratitude practice feels the most rewarding to you in the short term? Look for positive emotions or feelings.
Shooting for a feeling-state that you want more of (maybe you want more happiness, confidence, or calm) will take you down a different path than setting your something important but vague, abstract, or far off in the future (like getting healthier or living longer).
Tons of research shows that emotions are more motivating—and far more rewarding—than any sort of achievement goal in the long run, e.g., if you were to set a goal to practice gratitude 30 days in a row. This means that feelings will best reinforce the behavior that we’d like to establish as a long-term habit.
I’ve tried about every type of gratitude practice out there. What I’ve learned is that I’m not a journaler. Tor me, trying to write in a gratitude journal nightly feels forced, and like a chore—it doesn’t actually foster much gratitude, and it does foster a bit of dread. The key for today’s exercise is to look at how various gratitude practices actually make you feel, rather than how you think you are “supposed to” feel after doing them.
What To Do Today
Your task today is to decide on a single overarching thing that you want to feel when you practice gratitude (in addition to feeling gratitude, which is an emotion itself). Then, you’ll identify the practices that actually do make you feel that way.
Task #1: >If you haven’t already, try out some gratitude practices to see how they make you feel. The Greater Good Science Center is a great clearing house for gratitude practices take a look at what they recommend here.
If you try out some of the GGSC gratitude practices, the task today is just to notice how they make you feel. If they seem too long and involved for you, note that, too. We’ll need to make them much simpler (at least at first) in order to make them stick as a habit. (We’ll do that on Day 6).
Here are some of my favorite ways to practice gratitude in under a minute:
Task #2: Fill out the column labeled “How do you want to feel?” of the “Decide How You Want to Feel” worksheet in your workbook. Fill out the “Decide How You Want to Feel” worksheet in your workbook. When you tackle the second column (the one labeled Actions & Behaviors), stick to the activities that you already have experience with; we human beings tend to be truly terrible at predicting how something will make us feel. So instead of imagining how an activity might make you feel, go with what you already know.