The Secret to Happiness

How to be grateful when nobody else gives a crap…

year of no excuses happiness grateful heart

Happiness and gratitude are supposed to be synonymous with the holidays.  Happiness has very little to do with how much you have, in terms of money and possessions, right?  Well, yes – most adults believe that, but it’s tough to be cheery when it’s up to you to put a feast on the table while everyone else watches football.  Or when it’s up to you to somehow figure out how to decorate between soccer games and dance recitals.  Honestly, the holidays is when a lot of us spew platitudes about being thankful while completely overlooking the fact that they’re completely ignoring you.

What?  You mean you don’t want to go grocery shopping after working a 10 hour day and dealing with traffic?  Cooking after work ON TOP OF dinner, three days in a row to make sure the turkey is thawed and brined, along with fresh cranberry sauce, all the sides, and a choice of cheesecake and pumpkin pie?  You don’t look forward to that EVERY YEAR???

Well, I hate to say it but if you’re waiting for everyone else to grant you happiness, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.  Not feeling it but wish you did?

Here’s a simple challenge you can do by yourself.  It costs nothing and doesn’t involve posting fake crap on social media!

One Week Gratitude Challenge:

Day 1: Let’s think about this for a minute (or five).

Why do you deserve to be happy?  Does it pay to “fake it ’til you make it”?  Would it really take a perfect turkey and two choices of dessert, or a brand new video game system to make you happy?

Day 2: Start a gratitude journal.

You could buy a notebook specifically for this purpose, or scribble down something in your planner every day. Draw a picture, write a note.  No one over the age of 30 buys that social media image of your life, anyway… except maybe your mom and your hyper-competitive sister.

Day 3: Practice saying, “Thank you.”

Start by setting a goal to say, “Thank you,” 10 times today.  If that’s too easy, set a higher goal.  25 times.  100 times.  How many times can you say, “Thank you?”  Did you forget to say thank you for something that happened a while ago?  “You know, I never thanked you for ___________.”

Day 4: Find the little things.

Stop on the way to work and take a minute to enjoy the sunrise.  No seriously, you have a minute and think about this –  Why is it easier to be polite to strangers than to those we hold closest to our hearts?  Thank your friends and family, even for things that are expected.  Behaving in the store, doing the dishes, cleaning up

Day 5: Write a thank you note.

There’s something to be said for the lost art of letter writing.  Write an overdue letter, an anonymous note of appreciation, or a letter to someone you admire.  No fancy stationery or calligraphy needed- write something from the heart and SEND it if you’re brave enough!

Day 6: Ask someone to join you and do the gratitude challenge with you.

Lots of research shows that new habits are far more likely to stick when you make them public.  You can tell them what you’re doing or just share this blog post and ask them to try it out.  Did you have a favorite day?  Are you going to keep expressing gratitude?  Is your heart happier?  Share your experience and ideas with someone else, then encourage them!

Day 7: List 3 people or things you take for granted, and what you’re going to do about it.

By going through some of these exercises, you may have realized that you have a lot to be grateful for- more than could ever be addressed in a simple 7 day challenge… so pick out 3 people or things you’re taking for granted, write out why you’re grateful for them, and come up with a specific, actionable plan to show your gratitude!  You can use one of the methods we went through in the challenge or come up with your own!

If you’ve read this far, I suppose the next list is overkill but I digress.  Being grateful is shown to have the following benefits:

  • Instills self-esteem in others.  By acknowledging other people and thanking them for contributing to your life, they feel good because their efforts are being recognized and appreciated.
  • Creates a sense of abundance. When you recognize how much other people are willing to help you, it helps you realize you are also being recognized and respected by others.  It also helps you focus on the things you value in life, rather than failures or disappointments.
  • Builds/repairs social bonds.  Through acknowledging others in a positive manner, you will start to feel more connected to other people.  Expressing gratitude also encourages you to treat others nicely and act in a more moral manner.  All of which strengthens relationships.
  • Helps you cope with stress or trauma.  When you take the time to appreciate the little things, you also extract more happiness/satisfaction from the moment and remember them more vividly.  Not to mention, the ability to focus on the positive helps you accept and move past the negative faster.

Need more?  Here are some additional reasons Robert Emmons gives in his article, “Why Gratitude is Good.”  (There are also videos and more information, if you’re interested in some of the research he’s done.)

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