Want to be healthier? Learn how to be happy.
John F. Kennedy
Want to be happy? Learn how to be grateful.
Happiness is free and possible for everyone to lure it, capture it, treasure it, and revel in it. Sought after by rich and poor, young and old, healthy and infirm, happiness is an intoxicating experience because it allows us to see the world around us through a positive lens. It is a combat tool for depression and coping with every day struggles in life. We feel more in control and will likely assume more responsibility when our mood is elevated. “Instead of narrowing our actions down to fight or flight as negative emotions do, positive ones broaden the amount of possibilities we process” says Shawn Anchor in his book The Happiness Advantage “making us more thoughtful, creative and open to new ideas.”
Gratitude is a sure fire path to happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, says that gratitude is “many things to many people” and is “a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness.” It is an acknowledgement, an affirmation of our self in relation to other people and situations. Even Oprah talks about the ways she manages to sustain gratitude in her life. She understands its importance is beyond material things: “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.” Inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance, Oprah kept a daily gratitude journal where she wrote 5 things she was grateful for each day. Sarah calls them “heart reflections” and encourages attention to the small details in your life. It could be as simple as recognizing the beauty of a leaf, a stranger holding the door for you, the taste of a delicious dessert, having a good night sleep. It transforms your psyche and builds a positive inner mode of expression. Sometimes gratitude is also a response to a negative event that has not fully impacted you. For example if you tripped and fell, you can be grateful that you did not break any bones, if you passed a test you can be grateful that you did not fail it, if you chose a lackluster recipe to make for entertaining friends, you can be grateful that you planned other tasteful dishes for the gathering.
Many people who have faced crisis turn to gratitude to change their lives in a new direction. Dana Jennings writes about his recovery from prostate cancer: “Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude. I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor.” In fact gratitude is important in alleviating stress and depression because it builds emotional and physical wellness.
Dr. Robert Emmons author of the book "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” and one of the founders of Positive Psychology, has been studying gratitude for more than a decade. He conducted the first major scientific study on gratitude to show how it can significantly change people’s lives. He demonstrated that people who consistently practice grateful thinking experience the rewards emotionally, physically and interpersonally. It impacts our psyche. In the Journal of Gerontology, researchers studying memory in elderly individuals found that those who read a cheerful newspaper article about aging and memory did much better than the subjects who read a pessimistic article.
So the results are clear. Spending your energy practicing gratitude will lead to a rise in happiness that will generate a cascade of benefits; quite simply a better life.
As Alice Herz Sommer, the 109-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, says “I know about the bad but I look at the good.”
John F. Kennedy
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. Cicero