On Gratefulness

While I still have not finished reading “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor – partially due to lack of time and partially due to my attention deficit of starting multiple books and novels all at the same time – we did watch a webinar with him the other day at work.

Many of the tools he talks about are of tremendous value in adding happiness to your life – and job – but probably my favorite was his statistic on how much happier you can make yourself if you just write down three things you’re grateful for everyday for 21 days.  It seems like such a simple act, but one that can make such a huge difference.   It helps you focus on the positive things and remember all that you are grateful for…even in tough times.

Speaking of which, lifehack.org did a fantastic post on this very topic recently called “The top 10 habits of grateful people even in tough times” 

Three things that specifically rang true to me were:

1)   They do not have preconditions to their happiness. They do not think “If this happens” only then “I will be happy.” They understand happiness is not coming from the outside, but from within. They focus more on their adjustment to what happens rather than try to change what cannot be changed.

Changing your thinking is the only way to change your circumstances. Outside factors (books, therapists, advice, etc) can all help put life into perspective, but really you and ONLY you can change the way you think.  And only you can decide to be happy – despite the circumstances. You can’t change what happens to you, but you can change how you react to it.

2) People who are grateful know that a grateful attitude takes work. Gratefulness does not always come naturally, especially in the most challenging times.  In such times, grateful people work on keeping a good perspective.  They might read affirmations, seek support form others, get help for their sadness or anxiety. Some will seek counseling and do not shy away from the effort it takes.

I love this because I completely agree…during the tough times, and all the time, it takes a true effort to be grateful for what you have and where you are.  It’s easy to complain, to be unhappy.  Choosing to be happy is what takes work. People who are not naturally happy and positive people tend to believe it comes without effort to those who project happiness. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  When you are pushing through all of the grime and the hard times, it can feel insurmountable to remember the good or pull out of the anxiety.  But you have to do the work and make the effort to get yourself there.

3) People who love to learn tend to be grateful. Each setback or unforeseen life event offers us lessons, and grateful people focus more on the lessons they can get out of each situation rather than the disappointments. After all, life is a great teacher and teaches us things that no one ever could. Even mistakes and failures are seen as learning opportunities.

I love this one because it follows the “Everything happens for a reason” mantra that I’ve always been so fond of.  No matter how difficult/frustrating/depressing/sad a situation is, there is always something positive to be taken away. Something to be learned.  Unfortunately those lessons may not always be clear right away…but they eventually present themselves.   This also reminds me of a Michael Franti song – Have  a Little Faith.  There’s one part where he says “When the hard times come, you know the teacher’s in the room”

Being grateful isn’t only for sitting around a table covered in turkey with the Macy’s parade playing in the background….what are 3 things you’re grateful for today?

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