Understanding the benefits that can come with spending time without distraction from technology– time to reflect on our own thought processes– is something we strive to do at Vinaya.
It's no secret that engaging with the external world and practicing “presence” can improve human wellbeing. In fact, it's scientifically proven. It might seem really simple, but starting by recognising and being grateful for positive things in life can be beneficial across a broad range of areas.
Looking toward religious traditions that emphasise a grateful attitude towards one or multiple gods, researchers have trialled simple exercises, such as journalling about things to be grateful for or expressing gratitude towards a friend or family member. In doing so, they have found grateful action to be linked to positive emotion above and beyond what simply dwelling on positive occurrences produces.
Gratitude has been found to increase emotional wellbeing, reduce stress, and improve physical health.
Gratitude has been found to increase emotional wellbeing, reduce stress, and improve physical health. Adopting a grateful outlook can help to increase job satisfaction and decrease the likelihood of experiencing burnout, both of which are growing side effects of work environments across a variety of job sectors. The act of being grateful can in itself also foster the formation of social relationships and increase awareness of available social support. With close ties to mindfulness– of which the effects on our biochemistry are becoming an increasingly popular area of scientific study– gratitude involves being present and acknowledging the people and circumstances that have benefitted you.
How can you practically incorporate gratitude into your day-to-day life? The most common intervention used in research in this area is a simple daily journalling exercise. With the simple exercise of listing five things for which we are grateful for, and doing so consistently, this can be a moderately effective means for improving our gratitude levels. Another method is to express gratitude verbally or in written form to someone that has positively impacted your life, perhaps with a special occasion such as a birthday. This can have a much greater effect than the journaling exercise and has shown sustained effects on wellbeing even one month later.
This is of course something we can utilise digital communication to achieve. But without giving your brain and mind the time to reflect on the world around you, we can often get lost amidst a continuous stream of digital notifications and alerts that bear little meaning.
As a simple and effective exercise, we can begin by setting aside some offline time to think about the things in our lives that we are pleased with or proud of, and recognise the people who helped you to make them happen. Perhaps this moment takes place first thing in the morning, in a yoga class, during your commute, or before you go to bed. Consider how you can shift your outlook from a busy inward-facing perspective towards a mindful appreciation of the world around you and the people within it.
Leah Palmer is a member of the VINAYA lab specialising in psychology with an interest in how psychological research and technology can be integrated to promote wellbeing. She enjoys reading, cooking, and travel.