Exploring Gratitude


I was doing some nerdy reading recently and stumbled on a scholarly publication called “The Journal of Happiness Studies.” Yes, please! Basically these scholars review and approve articles all related to Happiness. Turns out study after study has been done to try to break the code on how to make us happier.

Many of these studies showed that one key to being happier is being more grateful.

People who live in a posture of gratitude not only reported feeling happier, more positive, and more satisfied with life, but they also reported better physical heath, increased energy, being wealthier and overall kinder. In turn they reported less depression, aggression, sickness, envy, loneliness, and addiction. Here is my complicated summary – there is more good stuff and less bad stuff when people are grateful. Interesting right?

There are a couple of principles I believe are at work here (and they are ones that I talk with my clients about a lot).

  • What you focus on growsThink about it. When we feel a twinge of concern, that turns into a pang of anxiety, and then we find ourselves on the side of the road having a full-blown panic attack. Or we get a little annoyed about morning traffic, which turns into frustration at the coffee shop, and full blown rage at the office. You get the picture. The same is true for a positive perspective. When we focus on feeling peaceful, calm, and centered, we begin to gravitate towards environments and people that increase those feelings. When we focus on joy, our joy rises up. When we focus on laughter, we find our side hurting. When we focus on the good, we become happy.
  • You find what you are looking for. I know. Seems pretty straightforward. Think about the amount of time we spend bracing for something bad to happen. That is what worry, anxiety, and fear are all about. It’s the negative “what if’s” in life. But the opposite it true as well. When we focus on the good, positive, and hopeful, we find all the little ways that life sparkles. And it does sparkle when you look for it.

Gratitude grows when we focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t.

My favorite coffee mug, clean sheets on the bed, a warm scarf, a crisp apple, or the sunlight coming through the trees. There is something to be said for choosing to see the glass as half full. Happy people are grateful for many things that unhappy people haven’t even seen. Happy people are mindful people – that is they haven’t disconnected from the world around them – they are engaged. Their eyes are open. They are looking for reasons to enact gratitude.

So be grateful, be happy, and go get your sparkle on! 

Written by: Wendy Dickinson, Ph.D.