For those focused on improving their health and well-being, one Indiana University Bloomington professor suggests considering gratitude.
It is simply noticing and appreciating what's good in our lives, said Joel Wong, a professor of counseling psychology in the IU School of Education. But gratitude is important because it is positively associated with better physical health, improved relationships and greater life satisfaction.
Gratitude involves two important components, Wong said: intrapersonal (feeling grateful and having grateful thoughts) and interpersonal (expressing gratitude to others).
Wong teaches practical tips for cultivating gratitude in group programs he leads, which are offered by Healthy IU through a partnership between the School of Education and Wong's graduate class.
Here are some tips for cultivating gratitude, according to Wong:
- Focus on expressing gratitude for the little things in life that we tend to take for granted: for example, the weather, finding parking, our office, our car.
- Start a daily gratitude journal. Each day, write down three things you're grateful and -- importantly -- provide a reason why you're grateful. Providing a reason encourages us to be specific about the things for which we're grateful.
- Each day, make it a habit to express heartfelt gratitude to someone. Don't assume people know you are grateful to them; they can't read our minds.
- At least once a year, write a letter of gratitude to someone important in your life whom you have not properly thanked. Explain the impact this person has had and provide specific examples of what the person did that made a positive difference in your life. Send the letter to the person and consider reading it aloud to them.