Monday, November 15, 2010

Pay It Forward = Pollyanna?

We'll see.  Because I'm thinking that my actions for the rest of the week will keep focus on gratitude practice, with the added step of "paying it forward". 

                                                 (Isn't she fabulous?)

The Compassionate Instinct connection:  According to researcher Robert A. Emmons, when people keep a gratitude journal - even just five entries per week - they're not only more likely to express feelings of happiness and contentment, but they are also more likely to be reported as helpful and kind by their friends.  Apparently, his study's been replicated with similar results.  Also, when Emmons performed a similar study on folks with neuromuscular disorders, the ones who kept note of their gratitude reported better sleep and more positive emotions overall than control groups.  That "paid forward" to their spouses and significant others because participants seemed outwardly happier. 

So, I'm going to keep tracking my gratitude.  (It helped a lot this morning to have written my thanks for the kitteh's can-do attitude:  "No toys?  No problem.  I'll just play in this pile of papers over here.  Or with this curtain. That pen looks fun too!  Ooh!  Box o matches!  Sa-wweet!  And this table leg!  And - look! - there's my tail..."  Then, when he proceeded to plough through every loose item in the house and then gnaw on every plant, I could assure him "That's not acceptable!" and clean up after him with a bit more equanimity.)

But why the extra step of  "paying it forward" consciously?  If Emmons's research is right, won't it just naturally emerge?  Well, if my mission is to create a better life for myself and all beings, I'm not taking any chances.  I've heard/read from multiple sources that it takes at least 30 repetitions to create a good habit - I tend to think it's often even more than 30 - and at least triple that number of repetitions to break a bad habit.

So I'd better get cracking! I'm going to make a point of expressing thanks directly and truly watching others' behaviors with compassion so I can find a way to make a positive impact on their days.  Seems a tad Pollyanna-ish, but I'll see how people respond, and whether I feel any happier as a result.  Or sleep better. (Now that would be worth the effort.)

Let you know how it's going later in the week.  I'm thinking that I'll write again on Wed., and post to my other blog (Gift/Gratitude Happens - link to the right) tomorrow.  Hope to see you then!
p.s. Quick note on reading practice:  The book's articles are still, for the most part, pretty lifelessly written and often sketchy about interpeting data and applying research findings to broader contexts, but keeping notes with the twin lenses of "What do I have questions about?" and "How might this apply directly to me at work and at home?"  has helped make reading it a reasonably worthwhile experience.

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