The Gratitude Diaries

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Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. 

-Epicurus

It’s been a while since my last book club post and I have been really excited about sharing this book, Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries, with you since I started reading it. Since the start of the year I have read a lot of interesting books, but this one is my favourite so far; The Gratitude Diaries is a thoroughly uplifting and inspirational read, and Kaplan’s own experiences as well as her research is thought provoking, making you reassess the way you look everyday life.

I used to think that I was a very positive person, it wasn’t until I read this book that I realised that I take so much for granted and actually under appreciate a lot of things and people in my life. The Gratitude Diaries is based on Kaplan’s own experiences when she made a New Year’s resolution to live more gratefully for a year to see if it could change her life. Throughout her year of “looking on the bright side”, Kaplan interviewed many experts in the field of Gratitude and compiled her own research to see if being more grateful actually can impact on your happiness, success health and more.

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Researchers have found that people who write down three things they’re grateful for every night (or even a few times a week) improve their well-being and lower their risk of depression.

Kaplan’s book is split into four parts, based around the four seasons of the year, and in each section (or during each season) she focuses on being more grateful in a specific area of her life; mainly family, success, health and social connections. I enjoyed the balance of personal experience and grounded research that Kaplan presents in the book, it makes the writing relatable but also makes you stop and think about the relevance of what she is writing about in regards to your own life. I found this book to be a heartwarming read, every time I put it down I felt inspired to go out into the world and be a better version of myself; I began to notice the little things and appreciate the good things that happened throughout the day rather than focusing on the things that went wrong. Just like Kaplan, I noticed that being more grateful had a knock-on effect with the people around me and in my life; when you look on the sunny-side and insist upon pointing out the positives to the pessimists, they give up complaining around you.

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We’ve all had experiences that seem miserable while we’re going through them but makes us grateful later.

Though the book is not set out to be a self-help book, I did find myself testing out Kaplan’s ideas in my own life to see if it would have the same effect. In the first section of the book Kaplan focuses on the effect of gratitude in relationships; she writes about how being more grateful for the little things her husband does brought them closer together and even though they weren’t having problems, helped them remember why they fell in love with each other so many years previously. While Giovanni and I don’t have the years of experience that Kaplan and her husband have, I did see a difference when I focused on the things I was grateful for in our relationship rather than on the dishes that hadn’t been washed after dinner. Sometimes we forget to appreciate the things we are grateful for about the people we love, and more than that we forget to tell them everyday how much those little things mean to us; it’s nice to hear you’re appreciated and that the little things you do don’t go unnoticed.

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Being grateful and spreading good vibes makes others want to help too.

Kaplan also shares a lot of interesting research about how gratitude can effect our health and well-being; being more grateful and taking the time to write about the things you were grateful for once a day, can dramatically decrease stress levels and improve mood. Not only has being grateful improve mood in the moment, but it has also shown to increase long term mood and sustained well-being. Kaplan even claims that being more grateful prevented her from getting headaches that she had regularly suffered from before.

If you trade your expectations for appreciation, the world instantly changes. 

One section I found really interesting is when Kaplan focused on seeing if being more grateful could make her healthier, fitter and lighter; could being thankful help you lose weight? At first I thought that that was taking things a bit too far, but the more I read and thought about the facts presented, the more it made sense that being grateful could actually help you lose weight; if being grateful boosts your mood then you are less likely to feel the need to binge eat cake and biscuits to make yourself feel better. The challenge is applying this in the moments when tragedy hits, like a random Wednesday afternoon when you feel like the only thing that’s going to get you through the week is a sharing sized bar of chocolate.

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Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something with your life that you want. 

I would definitely recommend this book, I have already bought a copy for my mother for her birthday and I feel like it’s one of those books that once you read it, you want everyone you know to read it too so that you can talk about it with them. More than that though, I feel like more people could do with implementing Kaplan’s philosophies in their lives, and learn to be more grateful earlier in life so that they don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves or not appreciating what they have because they are too focused on what they don’t have.

..time doesn’t stop. Moments pass quickly and so do years. The biggest regret most of us have in looking back is thinking of all the time wasted being unhappy or angry. 

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