Gratitude makes us 25 per cent happier..instantly!
Full-fat version here: http://www.reallygoodthinking.com/news_more.asp?news_id=24
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We've just had a new baby, a boy called Zac. We already have a six year old called Alex. A few people asked if we were disappointed to have another boy and not a girl.
How could people even think someone could be disappointed to have a lovely healthy child of either sex? Well I have heard of people talking about being disappointed if they don't get one of each sex.....unbelievable! And so ungrateful.
Personally, I'm so grateful to have a child at all considering how difficult it is for some, and that others have a sick child, or even lose one.
What about other areas for disappointment and a lack of gratitude in our lives?
Do we describe a "good life" in just one way, once certain boxes are ticked, excluding many other possible definitions as inferior?
Even if details aren't well defined, the focus is still a hope of attaining some kind of imagined future perfect state that will bring full satisfaction. Oh yes, we'll be so grateful when all these ships come in, but not until they do!
This sort of thinking is making us miserable!
Here's the problem: if we do that so specifically, when things fall short of our expectations and hopes, we are disappointed. We'll probably moan and complain, as if the universe owes us this perfect state of affairs and anything less is just not good enough!
There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation. But there is something wrong when we forget to be grateful for the good we find now.
When we do this, we miss out on something very powerful: the opportunity to choose a more helpful, more nourishing mindset. When we don't savour those good things we already have, we set in motion patters likely to damage our potential to enjoy positive things that come our way. So the more we get, the less we're able to appreciate. We keep accumulating all kinds of stuff, experiences, friends, but they don't sustain us.
We all know ungrateful people who seem unable to find peace and enjoy what they already have.
(Reallygood Thinking: It helps me to think of developing a positive and grateful state of mind as a journey, not as a final destination.)
There is a choice. We may choose to be grateful. Or not.
Well I'm definitely not gonna let ingratitude destroy my potential to find peace and enjoyment in life, and you shouldn't either! Actually, some of the bad stuff has turned out to have produced good in the end, though with other situations I can't see anything positive yet. I've decided to focus on the good anyway. And where might that lead? To gratitude of course.
What helps us focus on the good?
Some people really are in situations so bleak that finding anything for which to be grateful would take massive mental strength. There's no way I'd ever want to suggest anyone in these tough circumstances should just look on the bright side. We know that's not enough.
We've heard people say that knowing of other's misfortune - due to the randomness of birth, war, disaster, whatever - has little impact on their own ability to be grateful. Well, it has an impact on me, and thankfully, upon many others who want to make a difference for the better.
(Reallygood Thinking: People are dying, struggling, being driven from their homes, losing children, hungry, in slavery, suffering violence and abuse, trapped in poverty. I ask how I'd feel if I'd to experience such suffering, or if my children, loved ones, or friends went through such pain, or even died. This is going on all day, every day, and when I think of it it helps stop me being ungrateful for relatively minor inconveniences.)
Counting blessing rather than burdens
I look at my life and I can't help feeling grateful.
Most people I know, relatively speaking, could feel the same gratitude, for so many reasons. We don't have all these good reasons cos we are great, or we've done something to deserve them. It is largely because we were born in a nation that gave us all kinds of advantages denied to many born elsewhere. So we are lucky. I choose to be grateful for the luck of my birth.
(Reallygood Thinking: I set a timer for 5 minutes and list, without judgement, everything that comes to mind for which you I'm grateful now.)
What can gratitude do for us? It can make us 25 per cent happier that's what!
Not only does gratitude improve our mood, but practiced habitually, it makes us happier!
Work by Emmons and McCullough (2003) had participants write down 5 things they were grateful for each week, for 10 weeks. At the end of the study this group were 25% happier than a comparison group who simply listed five events from the week.
Another study by Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson (2005) found that 6 months after they'd begun doing a simple gratitude exercise, participants were happier and less depressed than a control group.
You are driving people away you ungrateful git!
A lack of gratitude in anyone is very unattractive. It's also boring. So, if ya want to make yourself, and those around you miserable, go ahead, be ungrateful. Its your choice.
In the end though, its the people who choose gratitude and recognise how lucky they are that will ultimately be happiest. And they're exactly the kind of folk who can start a movement, win people over, get others motivated, generate compassion and action, and help make a positive difference in all sorts of ways.
(Reallygood Thinking: If something isn't how I want it to be, and I have power to do something about it, and it is worthwhile, I recognise I can stop complaining and change it! I'm grateful I have power to change many things whereas lots of people have very few options.)
I'd love to know if you find these ideas helpful, and if you have tips for being grateful and appreciating what blessings you have already. Hope to see you in the comments.
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