I’m going to share a simple way you can be happier with your life the way it currently is. It is such a simple thing and will cost you nothing.
Most people believe that achieving happiness is about reaching a goal or changing their circumstances. I’ll be happy when I find my soul-mate. I’ll be happy when I get a promotion. I’ll be happy when I have a million dollars in the bank. There are a lot of misguided people who have those things, and still are not “happy”. That’s because happiness isn’t found in things, it is found in being grateful for what you have.
Practicing gratitude is just that. A Practice. It is easy once you get the hang of it and can help you to overcome a negativity bias.¹ Humans are hardwired with a negative outlook. Negative events have a bigger impact on our brains than positive ones. It is the “bad things” that grab our attention, stick to our memories, and, in many cases, influence the decisions that we make. Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.
We don’t need a negativity bias as much as our ancestors did. Most of us are bombarded with negativity on a daily basis thanks to this negativity bias (don’t believe me, just turn on the news). As humans we are stressed and depressed and need some good vibrations!
The Power of Gratitude
David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who focuses his work on the benefits of gratitude, said this in his 2013 Ted Talk:
“What is the connection between happiness and gratefulness?
Many people would say, well, that’s very easy.
When you are happy, you are grateful. But think again. Is it really the happy people that are grateful?
We all know quite a number of people who have everything that it would take to be happy, and they are not happy, because they want something else or they want more of the same.
And we all know people who have lots of misfortune, misfortune that we ourselves would not want to have, and they are deeply happy. They radiate happiness.
You are surprised. Why? Because they are grateful. So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
So you want to know a simple thing you can do to become more grateful?
Start a gratitude journal and write in it everyday.
The results are in and journaling about the things that are going right in your world will actually make you happier.²
Need more reasons to start a gratitude journal?
According to a 2011 University of Kentucky³ study, people who express gratitude in one way or another were less likely to become retaliatory toward those who they believed wronged them in some way. The same study participants were also found to be more sensitive and empathetic toward others.
Having more gratitude can lead to healthier relationships and potentially more romantic partners. A 2015 study published by Gonzaga University⁴ revealed that those who routinely express gratitude are far more likely to attract new friends and potential romantic partners than those who do not.
There is no wrong way to start a gratitude journal. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be specific. Focus on one specific thing as opposed to generalizations. Ex: “I’m grateful that my co-worker helped me complete the project that was due yesterday,” is better than “I’m grateful for my co-workers”
- It doesn’t matter whether your journal is on paper or done electronically. Choose whatever medium you want, as long as you can stick with it.
- Re-reading your journal may help ward off feelings of stress or depression.
- It matters less about how you write, and more about how you feel.
- Bookend your day by writing in your journal before you go to bed and reading it as soon as you wake up.
The more you focus on the positive, the more you will notice the good things. This happens quite naturally. You may find yourself being more grateful to those around you. Express gratitude when you are grateful and enjoy your happiness!
There are hundreds of books that can help you get organized with gratitude journaling. The truth is that you don’t need anything to start to see all the wonderful things in your life that you can be grateful for. As you practice this attitude of gratitude more and more, you will find even more things to be grateful for. It actually gets even easier to find things to write about and to be grateful for in general.
There is nothing too trivial to be grateful for. If you’re searching for something really big, just stop. What is a good about right now, this moment. Take a deep breathe, put your hand on your chest, and think about what you are grateful for in this moment. Enjoy that feeling of gratitude and celebrate that, whatever it is.
Right now, I’m grateful for a good internet connection. I’m so grateful to just be able to log on whenever I want to and access so much free information. I’m grateful that I can use the internet to help me to learn about my world and explore new theories. I’m grateful that I had the internet during covid lock-downs. I’m grateful that my child can log on and see her teacher and still learn. I’m grateful that I can use the internet to communicate with family that isn’t close to where I am. I’m grateful for online friends and communities I have access to, thanks to the internet. I’m grateful for a place to store my own ideas and access them whenever I want. I’m grateful to have the internet on my phone and that I can take it around with me. I’m grateful for the internet and not having to use printed out google maps when I drive somewhere.
That took me about 3 minutes. I just tried to focus on something positive as I was writing this post and that’s what came out. It isn’t meant to be a dissertation. No one but you is meant to read your journal, of course if you feel the need to share, go right ahead. We all need more positivity in our lives!