Boost your happiness by giving thanks
What would you rate your happiness right now? If you had to pick a number between 0 (super depressed) and 10 (ecstatic) what would you give your happiness?
What would it feel like if you could bump that score up by TWO without doing anything crazy?
It is pretty simple!
To boost your happiness by 2 points, give thanks.
Most of us can do much better in this area. In fact, less than half of Americans express gratitude on a regular basis.
Recognize what you have
So often we are not thankful because we don’t even recognize that a blessing is there. It might not even seem like a blessing.
Your appetite is a great example. When you are feeling nauseated, you don’t want to go grocery shopping, you don’t want to cook, and it’s hard to fathom how the rest of your household could want to eat. When you get your appetite back (after the first trimester of pregnancy, for example) you are so thankful for a normal appetite.
But don’t depend on what you have
You don’t need good events in your life to feel gratitude. You cannot always change the circumstances you are in. However, one can change how we respond to the circumstances. Like the meme that says you can complain about the snow or enjoy the snow—either way, you are going to have the same amount of snow.
That is what I’m talking about.
[Grateful people] don’t focus on what they’re lacking; they make sure they see the good in what they have. ‑ Dr. Robert Emmons
Every day, observe life around you and give thanks.
Gratitude is not the same as happiness
Yes, gratitude can boost your happiness, but they are not the same thing.
Gratitude is something you choose to do. Happiness is how you feel.
Gratitude is not the same as happiness. It’s not dependent on specific events. Gratitude is long lasting and impervious to change or adversity. It requires an active emotional involvement—you can’t be passively grateful, you actually have to stop and feel it, experience the emotion. So it creates an inner richness that’s sustaining in difficult times as well as good ones. – Janice Kaplan, The Gratitude Diaries. (affiliate link)
[If you haven’t yet read The Gratitude Diaries, I encourage you to pick it up. It’s one of those books that can change how you look at every day. It has secrets to change your whole health. I reviewed the book here.]
Boost your happiness: give thanks daily
The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology states that almost 20% of our happiness can be predicted by the amount of gratitude they feel. The simple conclusion, then, is to increase our gratitude.
The most effective way to do this is with a gratitude journal. Actually writing things down changes your brain and helps you focus on the blessings instead of the burdens in each day.
A gratitude journal doesn’t have to be fancy or pretty. It just needs to have paper. (Simple, right!?) At the close of each day, identify 2-5 things you are grateful for. Write them down. As you make this a daily ritual, your brain will notice and it will start to look for things you can write each evening.
There’s no right or wrong
My kids have a gratitude section at the top of their homeschool planner. Each day, they are required to write down 2 things they are thankful for. Their personalities really come out over the course of the year. One of them is almost always thankful for structural things (containers, shelves, Legos, etc) while another is thankful for creative materials (crayons, pencils, cardboard boxes, glue, etc) and a third lists people 100% of the time. There is no wrong answer when you are doing this practice.
Having said that, I would like to add that the more specific you can be, the more impactful this exercise is. Looking down and seeing a pink crayon might prompt you to write “crayons” but if you ask yourself “why” you might realize you are actually grateful for “the pink and gold and orange in the sunset last night that I tried to draw.”
Don’t wait until tonight or tomorrow morning. Right now, what are you thankful for? Comment below and share two things you are grateful for. Remember, there are no wrong answers.
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