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Practice Gratitude to Power Up Your Dissertation Journey

Issue 184



We wish our U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving this week. In appreciation of all of our 10,000 plus readers around the globe, we offer Eva Ross's timely synopsis of the value of gratitude on the dissertation journey. May you find her tips for increasing thankfulness a joyful way to add momentum to each day.


Warm wishes,

Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C.




FEATURE ARTICLE: Power Up Your Dissertation Journey with Gratitude Practices


By Eva Ross, Ed.D.


Don't slow down this Thanksgiving: Leverage the holiday to kickstart a new season of gratitude to help you finish sooner and enjoy the process.


Your dissertation journey requires key resources such as emotional resilience, psychological strength, and social support. Becoming more grateful can help you muster all these so that you can thrive, not just survive.


Today we'll share why and how gratitude works plus simple evidence-based tips for creating more of it.


First rate your own gratitude level with this quick quiz. Rate each statement with a number from 1 ("strongly disagree") to 7 ("strongly agree"):


1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.


2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.


3. When I look at the world, I don't see much to be grateful for.


4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.


5. As I get older I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.


6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.


Next, quickly score and interpret your answers here, courtesy of gratitude's top researcher, Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Chances are you don't need to do the math to acknowledge room for growth in your attitude of gratitude.


Positive psychology research has turned up several surprising reasons to nurture your gratefulness. As you will see, some bear directly on your well-being and progress as a graduate student. 


Gratitude's Hidden Benefits for the ABD Student


1. Gratitude improves mood and performance. Becoming more mindful of good things happening to you increases your positive emotions, concludes Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. Experiencing gratitude and other positive emotions boosts creativity, improves decision-making, and broadens your perspective—surely vital assets for a successful dissertation journey.


2. Gratitude in the present keeps you energized. Remember how excited you were to get accepted into your doctoral program? That initial thrill no doubt has waned as you have adapted to your circumstances. To re-inspire you and stoke your energies anew when the road seems bleak, you need to focus intentionally on the good things in the present, asserts happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.


3. Gratitude helps you conquer obstacles. As Rick Hanson, Ph.D., tells it, "The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones." Thus you are quite likely to either forget or take for granted the positive things in your life. Building your gratitude muscle increases the likelihood that you can draw on positive memories to surmount present challenges. Keep this in mind when your computer crashes or you get discouraging dissertation feedback.


4. Gratitude benefits your psychological and physical health. The consistent use of gratitude reduces anxiety and stress, something doctoral candidates can undoubtedly appreciate. Emmons further notes that it fortifies your immune system, lowers blood pressure, and even improves sleep. Who couldn't use that?


5. Gratitude enhances your social connectedness. Dissertation students, especially those working in distance programs, often experience a sense of isolation. Gratitude can help you with social skills. It upgrades your relationships, Emmons explains, by facilitating helpfulness and forgiveness while enhancing feelings of social connection.




Keep a gratitude diary. One of the most effective strategies involves journaling. Writing down the good things from your day keeps you focused on the good while maintaining realism. Use your diary, for example, to savor your advisor's kudos or getting that draft polished. Lyubomirsky discovered that the frequency of gratitude journaling can be critical—everyday might actually be overkill. I recommend that you see what works best for you.


Reframe the tough times. Consciously remembering how you overcame tough times in the past can help you deal with tough times in the present, explains Emmons. Writing a story or narrative or event may help you keep perspective and remember your strengths. Reframing is not denial, but rather reinforcement of the fact that you successfully navigated the situation. What did you overcome to reach this stage? What can you be grateful for in that?


Write a gratitude letter to someone special. For a dramatic mood boost, write a gratitude letter to someone who has impacted your life positively. Consider someone you've never thanked adequately, and if possible, deliver your letter personally and read it aloud. The process of actively writing and translating your thoughts concretely onto paper is sufficient to crystallize in your own mind the many ways you are grateful to this person, observes Emmons. Is it time to appreciate your high school chemistry teacher who served as a role model, or perhaps the aunt who offered you positive affirmations about your intelligence or perseverance?


Practice gratitude in the moment. Look for opportunities to experience and express gratitude throughout your day. In stressful moments, pause to count your blessings. Say "thank you" for small gestures that others perform for you. Practicing gratitude in "real-time" keeps you feeling upbeat all day and enhances your sense of connection to those around you. Here's your challenge: Each day this week, find at least three people to thank for favors large or small.


Gratitude not only feels good, but it also it also adds to your well-being and success. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of gratitude. The price tag is right and the immediate and long-term benefits are immeasurable. And of course your future "Doctor" self will thank you.



Recommended Resources on Gratitude


Emmons, Robert A. Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity


Emmons, Robert A. How gratitude can help you through hard times


Fredrickson, Barbara. Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life


Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does 


An academic and life coach in the Great Lakes area, Dr. Ross is devoted to helping doctoral candidates conquer the inner and outer obstacles to reaching their degrees. Her coaching invites clients to clear their emotional static, allowing them to move toward greater clarity and purpose in achieving important goals and a greater sense of well-being. Contact her at

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (, a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.


Dr. Scroggs is an executive, life and dissertation coach in the greater Chesapeake Bay area. She has helped hundreds of students and clients overcome procrastination, self-doubts, and other internal and external blocks in order to find the motivation and flow necessary to reach their academic, professional, and personal goals. Contact Dr. Scroggs with questions about this newsletter or about coaching in general at Enjoy additional free resources at



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