How to change your life in 5 minutes

If you commit to five minutes a day, you will change your life.

It’s that easy. 

Five minutes of your morning that can make you workout more, prioritize your sleep, and feel more overall joy. 

Five minutes of what? 

Five minutes of expressing gratitude for extrinsic or intrinsic aspects of your life.

If you’re wondering, this isn’t a suggestion based on anecdotal evidence alone, though I can testify that a daily gratitude practice has certainly transformed my mental performance and overall headspace. 

The “science of gratitude” is well documented. If you’re someone that prefers to make your decisions based on scientific studies, I urge you to do a deep dive into the literature. You will not be disappointed. 

In this article, I’ll be breaking down three foundational psychological studies on gratitude. Each study feeds off of the last, and the three studies were published together by the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis under the title, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. I will leave you with an app that can help you create your habit of daily gratitude. 

Study 1:

In the first study, researchers instructed one group of participants to complete 10 weekly gratitude journals of five items each student was grateful or thankful for in life. The next group of participants was instructed to name hassles or irritants in life. These students came up with annoyances and bothersome experiences of the previous week. Finally, the last group was instructed to simply outline five events that occurred over the previous week. Each participant then completed well-being ratings, journals of exercise time, and measures of physical symptoms. 

As you might expect, participants in the gratitude group had positive improvements in well-being, felt more optimistic about the upcoming week, and “felt better about their lives as a whole…” Further, they reported fewer physical troubles and spent more time exercising. 

Interestingly, practicing gratitude led to more action in creating positive self-care routines. 

Study 2: 

In the second study, researchers swapped the third group’s task for a social comparison condition. In this group, participants were instructed to outline how their lives are better than others’ or what material items they have that others don’t. Additionally, participants journaled their gratitude every day for two weeks instead of once a week for ten weeks. 

With this study design, participants in the gratitude group not only had more beneficial emotional effects, but they were also more likely to report an act of service or a deed to assist another person. 

Study 3:

Finally, study 3 extended the daily gratitude practice to three weeks instead of two and assigned participants to two groups: gratitude journaling or well-being journaling. The latter case included the reports on how the student was feeling, but did not include any reports of gratitude, appreciation, or thankfulness. 

Socially, participants in the daily gratitude group felt more connected to others, felt more optimistic about the upcoming week, and had a heightened overall outlook towards life. 

Interestingly, the same gratitude group reported significantly more hours of sleep and reported feeling more refreshed upon waking. 

Summary

In summary, gratitude has the potential to rewire your emotional state and help you approach each day with a refreshed perspective. 

The compounding effects of a daily gratitude practice sound nice, but the implementation of the habit requires consistent action. 

In order to create that daily routine, a helpful psychological tool called chaining can be used. In a nutshell, chaining refers to the process of adding days together to create a chain of habits. 

Recently, a friend of mine shared an app with me that facilitates both chaining and the use of accountability partners. The Habit Share app enables you to create your own habits and see the chain of success when you take action. Make your daily gratitude practice one of the first additions to the list.


Scan my QR code to add me to your accountability group:



References

  • Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389.