Monday 21 September was World Gratitude Day, so what better time to sit back and think about all the things you’re grateful for? For clinical psychologist, life coach and yoga teacher Dr Lauren Tober, happiness is our true nature – and we can help harness our happiness with a healthy dose of daily gratitude. That’s why Lauren founded Capturing Gratitude, a totally free worldwide photographic happiness project that encourages you to snap and share all the things you’re thankful for. We caught up with Lauren to find out more …
Tell us about the Capturing Gratitude project and how people can get involved.
Capturing Gratitude is a photographic happiness project. The idea is very simple. We take photographs of things we’re grateful for, and we share them online. It’s totally free and includes a 30 Days of Gratitude eCourse and the Gratitude Interviews eBook. It’s really a lot of fun. You can sign up at www.capturinggratitude.com.
Capturing Gratitude began with your own photographic experiment back in 2012. How has the idea evolved since then?
I started my gratitude experiment by accident. I was given an iPhone for my birthday and around that time was reading a lot of Brene Brown’s work on authenticity and wholehearted living, and gratitude was a big part of that. As a result, I decided I’d wield my iPhone for good rather than evil, and began taking photographs of things I was grateful for. It very quickly became evident that this was a pretty life-changing practice for me, and as others became interested in what I was doing, Capturing Gratitude was born. Basically, for 30 days we take photographs of things we’re grateful for. We share them with our loved ones, and with the gratitude tribe in the Capturing Gratitude facebook group and on instagram using the hashtag #capturinggratitude.
When did you first realise the importance of gratitude?
Before I started taking my own gratitude photographs, I thought practising gratitude would be a nice thing to do, but I had no idea how life changing it would be. From the very first day I began to realise how much of an impact a regular gratitude practice had on my mental health. As I was pausing regularly throughout the day to focus on what I was grateful for, a deep sense of contentment came over me, as I began to focus on what was good in my life rather than what was missing. This sense of contentment has continued to this day, and had been especially helpful during challenging times in my life. Gratitude is not just for the good times, but is an immensely helpful tool to support us to navigate the hard times.
Capturing Gratitude runs for 30 days from 21 September. What are your hopes for those who take part in the project?
My aim with this simple project is to increase global happiness. Taking photographs of things I am grateful for has made a big difference in my life, and I want to share that with the world. I really encourage everyone to give it a go. It takes very little time each day, and the rewards are huge. My hope is that everyone who takes part of Capturing Gratitude will tap into their innate sense of happiness and live a life of joy and contentment.
What are the benefits of a daily gratitude practice?
There’s been some wonderful research on the benefits of a regular gratitude practice. In 2003, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough invited hundreds of undergraduate university students to take part in their groundbreaking gratitude research. They randomly assigned them to one of three conditions, and asked them to either (1) record things that they were grateful for, (2) record hassles from their day or (3) simply record any events or circumstances that had affected them in their daily life.
They found that those who recorded things that they were grateful for:
- – reported more happiness and joy,
- – experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness,
- – spent more time exercising,
- – were more optimistic and satisfied with their lives,
- – reported increased positive affect and decreased negative affect,
- – were more likely to offer emotional support to others,
- – felt an increased sense of connection with others, and
- – even slept more hours and with a better quality of sleep each night.
Not bad for a small shift in focus!
What does gratitude mean to you?
To me these days, gratitude is a state of being. Over the years it’s has gone from being a practice of acknowledging the people and things in my life I’m grateful for, to a deep practice of simply being grateful for being alive. When I’m tuned into gratitude for simply being a part of creation, a deep sense of joy and ease arises in me, and I am able to welcome everything that arises. There’s a tangible sense of being OK with everything just as it is. Gratitude works on so many different levels in so many different ways. I wholeheartedly encourage you to find that way that it works for you! Are you ready to find out how happy you’ll be with a regular gratitude practice? Sign up now at www.capturinggratitude.com.