Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase.
There’s something interesting I’ve noticed lately, after taking a good look at my attitude and my beliefs in life. Happiness and joy had come so easy to me when I was younger; I had always been extremely positive even though I experienced problems and adversity just like everyone else.
Through some analysis of self, I don’t know when or how it happened but I really had become kind of a Negative Nelly since then. No, I didn’t suddenly morph into Squidward, but there was definitely a negative shift in my thinking and I was feeling it.
This change seemed odd because I always assumed I had gotten lucky and I was just an innately positive person.
Really digging deep, the answer was gratitude. For as long as I can remember, I’d rattle off all of the things I was grateful for before I went to sleep. I don’t know how I had learned to do this, but for some reason I did it. And now, I had gotten away from this practice.
Gratitude was the reason I was so positive and happy all the time, even when life totally sucked.
Gratitude can make you happier instantly, long term, and all around.
Today’s society likes to show us what we don’t have – whether it’s advertisements, social media, or otherwise. They purposely make us feel bad about not having that stuff.
It’s not surprising in this kind of culture that we’re focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do. I’m sure this was a huge influence on myself as I fell off the gratitude wagon.
There’s science behind gratitude, too!
Shawn Achor, who studies Positive Psychology and author of The Happiness Advantage, has some awesome research on positive psychology and gratitude.
He has found that 90% of your long term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain actually perceives the world. AKA it doesn’t matter how much stuff or money you have, happiness is actually an internal thing. This is good news because you have the ultimate power over this!
One of his exercises include to write down three things you are grateful for and why every day for 21 days. 21 days gives you the time to make it a habit, and this actually trains your brain to focus on and highlight the positive rather than the negative throughout the entire day.
The cool thing that Shawn has found as a result of his research is that the happier and more positive you are, the more successful you become. If someone becomes more positive and happy, their brain literally works faster and more intelligently, resulting in more success.
So that’s good news. I’m sure we can all appreciate added perks of being happier.
Check out a great (and hilarious) TED talk by Shawn Achor here.
Joy and Gratitude: Brene Brown
Brene Brown has some great thoughts about cultivating gratitude and joy in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. Upon interviewing people who would describe themselves as joyful, she states that every single person, without exception, attributed their joyfulness to practicing gratitude.
Another important thing that Brene points out is that gratitude is a practice. It’s doing something, participating in something. You must take action for yourself instead of just reading this post and thinking “oh, yeah, sounds like a pretty good idea.”
Where to start
If you’re really struggling on what to be grateful for, consider this: the things that you have right now are someone else’s dream. You probably have food, clothing, shelter, a car; if you’re alive and your heart is beating and you’re healthy enough to be able to walk around, then you already have plenty of things to be grateful for.
Start small. They don’t have to be crazy-huge things. We can all appreciate the little things – personally, I think those are the most important.
Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to be some long, drawn-out process. You really only need 5 minutes to do this. Take 5 minutes out of your internet browsing time and put it towards something that will add a ton of value to your life!
I plan to fill out this worksheet with 3 things I am grateful for and why every night before I go to sleep. Keep your eyes peeled for updates – I hope that you’ll join me! 🙂