Jahnavi Shah

PhD Student, Planetary Science

The Gratitude Book

Hello all,

We’ve made it to April! Today, I want to share a little blurb about a personal project that I have started this month, and hope to continue for a long time:

I’ve been trying to work on my mindfulness and and improving my mental health, but being consistent is not my strong suit. However, given the current circumstances, I have more time at hand and I’m trying to take advantage of that. Recently, I started listening to a podcast that my advisor, Dr. Catherine Neish, recommended some time ago: The Happiness Lab hosted by a Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor at Yale University. The podcast talks about scientific research on happiness and practical strategies that you can implement to improve your happiness. I really enjoy listening to it and have learned many interesting things. One of the episodes mentioned practicing gratitude as a way to be more happy. Research shows that gratitude can help to improve mood, lower stress, lower blood pressure, strengthen immune system, and form stronger social connections. The suggestion to start off was to writing down things you are grateful for each day, so I did just that and I call it ‘The Gratitude Book’. I’m only a week in and enjoy the experience so far – my day ends on a positive note!

The initial motivation for the book was for me to practice gratitude and reflection, but I think it’s expanded a little bit. I’m curious to see and document how people are feeling during these difficult and uncertain times. So, I’ve told some of my friends about my project and have asked about things they’re thankful for to add to the book. It’s not a robust system because I don’t ask them every day, just once every couple days, and it is a very small group of people. I’ve thought about making some sort of online (and anonymous) system where people can add points of gratitude, but not really sure how effective it would be. Also, I think it’s a different experience to physically write it down than having to remember to go to an online form at the end of each day to reflect. I’ll keep brainstorming though because I think it would be neat to have a documentation of people’s thoughts of gratitude over the next few months while we’re still practicing physical distancing. As a further extension of this personal project, I think I’d also like to start something like this for the Neish Lab, once we’re up and running again.

A side little anecdote:
An undergrad peer of mine had started a project called ‘The Happy Book’ a few years ago. It was essentially a very similar idea where they had a small book to record things that made them happy each day. But they had mentioned the idea to friends and would bring the book to a common/lounge space and encourage people to add to it. And I guess it worked because after some time people would ask to write in the book if they saw them. I also remember another student had started their own book as a result of it. So a part of the inspiration for my book definitely goes to them!

Here’s hoping the practice of gratitude sticks! Thanks for reading!

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