Happiness and 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.

Let’s face it – after all that we’ve all been through and carried in the last 18 months, figuring out how to bump up happiness is a welcome change for all of us! 

Many of the studies on happiness 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 health, increased energy, being wealthier, and overall kinder. In turn they reported less depression, aggression, sickness, envy, loneliness, and addiction. Here is my complicated summary – the result is more good stuff and less bad stuff when people are grateful. Interesting right? 

Now, you wouldn’t be alone if you had spent a lot of time in the last few months focused on really difficult and hard stuff.

As the tides are potentially starting to turn from the worst of the pandemic, the question becomes – how do we adopt a posture of gratitude? How do we get out of the rut of negativity? How do we escape the stagnation of hopelessness? 

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 a technology issue, which turns into frustration at the drive through, 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 sides hurting because life can be really funny if we look for it. 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 is 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. It’s worth saying that we can start looking for the good even when we’re carrying something heavy. There is good even when we aren’t completely out of the dark. It takes some practice but remaining grateful when things are hard helps ease the burden. Finding things that sparkle helps illuminate the darkness. 

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 beautiful weed flower, 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 mindful, be grateful, and go get your sparkle on! 

Written by: Dr. Wendy Dickinson