(Scientific Content Taken from Positivity, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson)
“Count your blessings, name them one by one….” are the words to a hymn that gets attention in a small window of time called Thanksgiving that gets open and shut faster than the hymnal itself.
The hymn writer who lived from 1856-1922 knew what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s research is revealing 100 years later….recognizing your blessings does a heart and mind good.
Dr. Fredrickson has coined the term “Positivity,” a broad term that includes the following emotions:
Learning to incorporate a ratio of >3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion (>3 to 1) has the following physiological and emotional benefits:
- Rewires the brain for the better
- Has cumulative effects of positivity over time
- Decreases negativity, but doesn’t eliminate it
- Live longer
- “Upward Spiral” (instead of a downward spiral)
- Enjoy life in the moment
- Balance between work and play
- Improves relationships
- Broadens how you look at circumstance
- Enables you to cope with diversity
- Helps you see the “bigger picture”
Science has also confirmed that individuals whose ratio is <1 to 1 are clinically depressed; marriages need a >5 to 1 ratio; and individuals who thrive have a ratio of 6 to 1.
So how do you learn to be thankful? Have a better attitude? Not be discouraged?
When life is going well, when it’s not going well, and every situation in between. The hymn writer knew that it was especially important to look for blessings in the midst of hardship, conflict, and discouragement:
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
If you aren’t feeling very thankful, start a daily gratitude journal. List 3 things for which you are thankful for that day. Name anything big or small, significant or insignificant. List it. Things, people, or activities you take for granted. Make the choice to be thankful and stop wallowing in self pity. (I’m sure you know people who are satisfied to be dissatisfied…)
If you intentionally incorporate gratitude and a few of the other emotions listed above for a period of 3 months, you will notice a habitual change in your emotions.
And when those billows of life roll your way, the swell of gratitude will sustain you.
And for that, you can be grateful.