19 Dec 2013 9 Comments
Following up on Alethea’s post about Famous Jammies yesterday, I’d like to talk about another short video (also 3 minutes, 45 seconds!) I found on YouTube recently. This one features Dr. Brené Brown, professor and renowned vulnerability researcher. She is perhaps best known for her TED talks on vulnerability and shame, but in this clip she talks about the connection between gratitude and joy.
Namely, in her 11,000 interviews, Dr. Brown found that every single person who described his or her life as “joyful” or “joyous” also “practiced” gratitude.
By practicing gratitude, Dr. Brown doesn’t mean feeling or being grateful; rather she’s talking about a very specific and tangible gratitude exercise — keeping a gratitude journal, for example, or articulating something for which you are grateful at a certain time each day.
This relationship between joy and gratitude surprised her. She had gone into the research thinking, “If you are joyful, then you should be grateful.”
She found, instead, that “practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”
It surprised me, too. For the last several months, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal, where I write down five things for which I am grateful about that day. I have to admit, some days are harder than others, and sometimes, if I’m having a bad day or am feeling physically unwell, I skip the journal altogether.
I would think: “Well, that was a crap day. It’s not that I don’t have anything to be grateful for; I just don’t have the energy or the inclination to come up with five specific things right now. Tomorrow, when I’m feeling better, I’ll try again.”
Now, Dr. Brown’s insights make me wonder if I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Maybe the very fact that I choose NOT to practice gratitude contributes to my bad day. Maybe the times when I need my gratitude journal the MOST are the tough days, not the joyous ones.
So, instead of avoiding my gratitude journal, I’m going to make a point of writing in it when I’m feeling my worst. In addition, per Dr. Brown’s suggestion, my family and I now practice a gratitude exercise every evening, where we light a candle and go around the circle saying what we are each grateful for. It is another source of joy in my life to see what my kids come up with every day.
We’ll see if Dr. Brown is right. I suspect she is.
What about you? Do you practice any gratitude exercises? Do you agree with Dr. Brown? What do you believe is the connection between gratitude and joy? What are you grateful for today?