One way to transform your life and utterly change the way you see the world, is to work on gratitude. It might seem a bit alien or “New Agey” to concentrate on this. But here’s something you probably don’t know: SCIENCE SHOWS THAT GRATITUDE IS THE ONLY REALLY EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR CREATING HAPPINESS.
A 2005 study by psychologist Martin Seligman, published in the journal American Psychologist, showed that a one time act of thoughtful gratitude produced an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms, but the effects disappeared within six months and three months, respectively.
But doing it for a week was much more impactful. Participants asked to write down three things that went well and their causes every night for seven days had an effect that lasted for months!
After one week, participants were 2% happier than before, but in follow-up tests, their happiness kept on increasing, from 5% at one month, to 9% at six months. All this, even though they were only instructed to journal for one week. Participants enjoyed the exercise so much, that they just kept on doing it on their own.
That’s surprising. But numerous studies of “positive psychology” have shown that, once we get beyond the basic requirements of food, shelter and clothing, having more possessions does not create more wellbeing.
This is counter-intuitive, of course, in a world which is obsessed by the idea that more money, a flashy car, the right career moves, a super-sexy girlfriend or boyfriend and a luxury home will make us happy. The truth is that none of these worldly indexes create true happiness.
We go on pretending, or wishing, but deep down we already know that rich people or “happily married” people are really not happy at all.
It really comes down to gratitude. Without that, we cannot appreciate what we have. Gratitude repeatedly performs to make us happier about ourselves, about our lives, about what we have, about what we may achieve. That’s pretty powerful.
But it shouldn’t really be surprising. Gratitude brings to mind the good, the positive, the loving, the healing and the many, many beautiful things we have to experience.
It puts down the monster of greed and status. To be grateful is to affirm, absolutely, that what you have is sufficient and nourishing.
Gratitude brings you into the NOW, so that you are not regretting the past and not anxious about the future or wanting things to come into your life.
Gratitude says that my life is rich and I am blessed. It would be nice to have a choir of heavenly angels around to sing this richness to you, every day (just joking). But fortunately, this isn’t essential… Declaring gratitude for yourself will focus your mind on good things. And you know what they say… that which you focus on comes into your life.
So, as well as being grateful for what you have now, you will become richer and richer. Gratitude brings more gratitude, as Seligman’s study showed!
No one’s life is so poor that there is not some cause for celebration.
The secret is to look for the good in everything. There is an old English adage: Every cloud has a silver lining.
And you know it’s true: if it rains it may dirty up the car or mess up your hair, but moisture feeds the plants and trees, which are the glory of our world and a wondrous gift we have to share, every day.
Even sickness and diversity can be a gift. It is life telling us we are off track, we have made a wrong turning, or have neglected ourselves too much.
Suddenly faced with mortality, many people have discovered to their joy that so much of what they were doing and what they cared about was, in truth, without real value. The sudden threat gave them a golden chance to simplify and focus on what really matters in life… purpose, love of others, giving and service. People who have been to the extreme and come back do say it brings about celebration and the opportunity for cherishing what is good and lovely.
If you are facing tough challenges, be grateful for the message of healing, translate it into what you need to do, and then make those changes.
Loss is only loss if you cannot bear it. Think about that. If you have had a loss that was difficult to get over, then it is only your feelings about it that continue the pain.
The message is clear: you need to let go. Take on the future, face forward and not backwards, and be grateful for what is now around you, rather than longing for the past.
Feel gratitude for what you had, by all means, but without wanting it back; be grateful for what you have, without comparing it to better times or better places.
Think often on this: gratitude speaks of love; it is a song to yourself. Love yourself enough to be very glad for the many, many good and beautiful things in your life. It is your expression of your love for life; it’s your connection to all those good things that you celebrate.
If you say I am angry or I am disappointed, you hurt yourself.
So it is logical that if you say: this is good; I take delight in what I see and what I am experiencing, then you redeem yourself and release any pain you may have been harboring.
The truth is, the list of things you can be grateful for goes on and on forever. Gratitude is true abundance.
So here is my challenge to you: keep a gratitude log for 30 days or, even better, 60 days and then re-evaluate your life. See how much difference being conscientiously grateful creates within you. Then decide, on the basis of what you learn, whether to keep the new way of thinking going as a habit.
It’s simple to do. This manual is here to help you. Try to find at least three things each day, for which you feel grateful. Write them down (that’s important) and treasure the record that unfolds. You’ll be able to re-read your gratitude log from time to time and you’ll find all the happy memories come swimming back into mind.
Your life is a gift. Celebrate it.