The Science of Gratitude

 

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Epicurus

 

What if I told you practicing gratitude could make you happier?

It’s funny. We’re at the Thanksgiving table, we tell everyone what we’re grateful for, and then we immediately switch to crazy-Black-Friday-mode and forget about everything we’re grateful for in the first place. In our everyday lives, being grateful – and practicing gratitude – isn’t something we do instinctively. Instead, we simply live life. We do things. We see how the world is and we come up with conclusions.

You see a tree and you make a conclusion about it (groundbreaking, I know!). Your son tells you something nice and you make a conclusion about it. Your father doesn’t call you and you make a conclusion about it. And, suddenly, your day is a filter of mini-conclusions (some bigger and more impactful than others) that you made. Yeah, you thought them out. But those conclusions make your day. And this adds up.

Anecdotally, we’re told by passing family members that “you should be more grateful”, but besides the moralistic premise, it doesn’t really hold any weight. But what if I told you practicing gratitude could make you happier? That being grateful, not every once and while, but practicing it consistently, can flip your mindset?

I’m always inspired at the Thanksgiving table – you see your loved ones talk, rather sheepishly, about what they’re grateful for. The young ones always say something ridiculous; the seniors are always giving mini-speeches about all the things they’re grateful for (“Back in my day…”). But at least at our table, no one’s sad. No one’s not happy, even when we’re half-assing the job of answering a Thanksgiving tradition.

Lots of positive psychology has figured out that – while it sounds kooky – actually writing down 3 different things you’re grateful for every morning (or every night) will make you happier. There’s nothing that starts your day or ends your night like filtering life through gratitude, every single day.

When you’re looking at a tree, listening to your son, or staring at the phone, the conclusions you make aren’t objective. They’re filtered through the stories you tell yourself about them. And those stories can be a mixture of negative or positive. But, what’s so incredible about practicing gratitude is that it literally rewires you to look for the positive. You start thinking, more and more, everyday about the things that are right about your life. And there is no better definition of waking up on the right side of the bed, then smiling at the three things you’re actually glad are still not completely screwed in your life. You start the day right. You get your mind turning, on the right things.

And overtime, by making consistent progress in your thinking, you get dramatically happier. You get more confidence. You have better relationships. You become a better person. And things start working.

What if I told you practicing gratitude could make you happier? Turns out, it can.

 

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