This program was part of the Mindfultainment experiment. You can read more about it here.
Probably of all the practices studied in the science of positive psychology, gratitude is the one that has been shown to be the most consistently effective. In fact, it’s been called as closest we have to a “silver bullet” by Martin Seligman the father of postitive psychology.
It’s been show to increase resiliency, improve self-esteem, strengthen relationships, make people like you more, improved decision-making, reduce stress, reduce impatience, reduce blood pressure, reduce depressive symptoms, improve sleep, and even increase your frequency of exercise.
I’ve felt the benefits of even doing a couple minutes of it each day. I think it’s great, it’s easy and anyone who has a few minutes for some deeper thought can do it.
Gratitude was a prime candidate for The Mindfultainment Series. Let’s do a walk-through and I’ll evaluate the results afterward.
Participants had been given a clipboard, pen and some sheets of unlined paper when they arrived.
The intro page has some slowly moving clouds and the title:
Straight away I listed the benefits in an uncited fast-scrolling list:
Then it explained how you could write gratitude: just a list, partial sentences or full sentences. Whatever worked for you.
To help people generate ideas, I gave them some ideas which were grouped into segments by theme. Here’s the theme for “Possessions”:
Here’s the one for “Good Memories”:
The audio had a very new-agey chimes and water and oooohm beginning to each segment, which faded into the sound of a river flowing to indicate that the writing part had begun. (Just to keep the room from becoming awkwardly silent).
The topics of the segments were: possessions, nature and animals, people in your life, good memories, science and technology, talents and abilities, arts and entertainment, recent events, recurring experiences, basic needs, beauty and aesthetics, and personal accomplishments.
Each segment lasted about a minute and then at the end, there was some time to reflect on your writing so that the list could sink in a little more.
Like all of the “Mindfultainment” programs, it attempted to make these mindfulness practices more fun and interesting and light. Also, like the other mindfultainment programs it was originally designed in 2D and the effects on the walls were sort of slapped on there once it transitioned to a 3D space.
So how did it go? Not well at all.
- Set expectations better.
- If you’re going to ask people to contemplate their lives, make sure you let them know that before they sign up. It required more things of them personally and introspectively than they had expected which is a huge fail.
- If you’re going to have crazy LED walls… use them! The testers thought it’d be a bunch of fun crazy lights and sound and a feeling of surreal fun like in previous programs. It wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t.
- Just because you like walking doesn’t mean you should be a cobbler. I really find journaling gratitude incredibly useful and rewarding. But I have to admit it was complete drudgery to create this program. The sort of deep thought and considerations needed to create a program that teaches and facilitates gratitude practices is very different than just being a participant or journaling on my own.
- Despite the vanilla delivery of this program, I did sincerely try to make the Mindfultainment’s mix of serious and weird work. It landed heavy on the serious side. It was very hard to create a contemplative environment where people are being energized or entertained or surprised. It’s a battle for attention and it seems like it’s winner-take-all (or mutual destruction).
What’s Next For This Program?
Nothing. It’s sitting on the shelf indefinitely. I’ve changed the focus of The Eureka Room from Mindfultainment to “joyful absurdity”, which is what I do best. I’m not sure there’s much of this program I can reuse in the new context but I know which shelf it’s on in case I find a need for it in the future.