Friday, March 8, 2019

Friday Feature: Grateful

Several summers ago, I was out on my patio, going through a new textbook for the general psychology course I'd be teaching for the first time. A line in one chapter about Martin Seligman and the field of positive psychology captured my attention and drew me into a whole new (to me) segment of a field I've been studying and/or working in since I was seventeen.

I was captivated. Looking up the information in that one sentence lead to my earning a certificate in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center. I used that material to fuel my freshman seminars and to create a positive psychology course that I taught last spring.

Positive psychology is often misunderstood, mistaken for a false positive view of life where everyone is always happy and the realities of life are ignored and/or swept under the rug. The concept of gratitude, in particular, is often a target as people associate being grateful with being disingenuous.

In his article, Five Myths About Gratitude, researcher and professor of psychology Robert Emmons addresses many of the misconceptions surrounding gratitude, refuting the idea that it's merely a feel-good tactic that subordinates us to others. Gratitude is, in fact, a way of coping with stress, loss, and even tragedy, as borne out by studies conducted with survivors of the attacks on the World Trade Center and soldiers on active duty. When I taught my positive psychology class, the gratitude exercises were the ones my students not only enjoyed, but embraced, continuing to do them on their own even after the class had ended.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about psychology is the power of the human mind. Positive psychology explores our ability to change our own minds and, in so doing, choose emotional health. For some, it is by no means that simple but, for most of us, a little gratitude is a cheap, easy way to maintain a positive outlook merely by changing our focus from what's wrong to what's right.

One of the most often used gratitude activities is simply ending your day with three things (or one thing, if you wish to start more slowly) that you're grateful for. Studies have shown that people who do this sleep better.

What are you grateful for?

No comments:

Post a Comment