Happiness in Two Words

If I told you I have two words for you that will make you very happy, you might guess:

“You’re rich!” or “You Won!” or “Let’s Eat!”

No, the two words I have for you are thank you.

My godfather shared a wise lesson with me before he passed. He said his mama raised him to live in gratitude. He said that if you approach every day with gratitude, you cannot help but derive strength, truth and love from your life. From that point on, I started noticing people who actively practice gratitude and those who rarely do. I have to say, I know he was right.

Thank you. These were my daughter’s first words. She’s developed into a pretty happy person, and I notice that she often thanks those around her for who they are and what they do, and that came through at a very young age. As a teen, she isn’t broody or moody, she’s generally happy and frequently grateful . When you start paying attention to it, you notice that people who often  express gratitude are generally happy people.

It turns out that the correlation between gratitude and happiness is well researched. One psychologist, Dr. Robert Emmons, has been conducting research on gratitude for over ten years. In one of those studies 300 people were divided in three groups. The first was told to make a list every day of the things they were grateful for. The second was told to make a list of things that made them sad or angry. The third was told to write about  anything that happened that day. After a period of time the gratitude group outperformed the other two groups on a wellness index, and by a wide margin. They slept better, exercised more, were sick less, and reported higher levels of satisfaction with their lives. You can read about this experiment and much more on Dr. Emmon’s contributions to Greater Good Magazine here.

So this Thanksgiving, think about making that spirit of gratitude something that you carry forward for the next 364 days, and every day after that. Here’s a simple way to get started:

  1. Every day for one week, write down in a journal the people, places or experiences for which you are grateful that day. Be specific. Instead of I am grateful for my family, try something like “I am grateful my Mom was able to pick up my kids today,” or “I am grateful my son is over his infection.”
  2. Pick something on your list and send a hand-written note to the person responsible for it. Putting your gratitude into the written word will last a long time for you and your recipient.
  3. Choose someone on your list to tell in person how grateful you are for something they have said or done. Sometimes we have difficulty saying thank you face to face, particularly to family because we assume they already know. So go ahead and tell your daughter you are grateful she has learned to tie her own shoes. Tell your co-worker you are grateful she was there to stand behind your idea in the last meeting. Tell your postal worker you are grateful for the way he leaves your packages at the door. Tell your Dad you are grateful he could stop by.

Whatever you do, start making gratitude your way of living in addition to something you do at Thanksgiving.  After a while, you’ll also notice how very good you feel.



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