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An article by John Tierney in the NY Times offers advice for getting into the holiday spirit. It even suggests that it’s possible to keep a good frame of mind even in the midst of dysfunctionally behaving loved ones.
…what if you’re not the grateful sort? I sought guidance from the psychologists who have made gratitude a hot research topic.
- Start with “gratitude lite.” Researchers at the University of California asked people to keep a once-a-week journal listing 5 things they were grateful for. After two months, those who kept the lists faithfully were more optimistic, happier and reported fewer physical problems than those who did not. Researcher Robert Emmons advises “If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.”
- Don’t confuse gratitude with indebtedness. Returning a favor is not gratitude; indebtedness is more of a negative feeling, according to psychologists. At Northeastern University, researchers found that students who were helped when their computers were sabotaged were likelier to help someone else — even a complete stranger.
- Try it on your family. Says Sonya Lyubomirsky of the University of California, “Do one small and unobtrusive thoughtful or generous thing for each member of your family on Thanksgiving. Say thank you for every thoughtful or kind gesture. Express your admiration for someone’s skills or talents — wielding that kitchen knife so masterfully… and truly listen, even when your grandfather is boring you again with the same World War II story.”
- Don’t counterattack. If you’re bracing for insults, consider an experiment at the University of Kentucky. Some subjects were praised when they handed in a piece of writing, while others received a scathing evaluation. Later, those who were insulted retaliated meanly — unless they were subjects who had been instructed to write about things they were grateful for! Those people were not bothered by the nasty criticism (or at least they didn’t feel the need to retaliate meanly). Nathan DeWall, who led the study, says “Gratitude…helps people become less aggressive. It’s an equal opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and profit from it.”
- Share the feeling. A researcher at the University of Miami, Dr. David McCulloch, says “More than any other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship. It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.”
For this entire article by John Tierney in the Times on Nov 22, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/science/a-serving-of-gratitude-brings-healthy-dividends.html?scp=3&sq=John%20Tierney&st=cse
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