Want to be happy? Be grate­ful

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - Kath­leen Be­g­ley Colum­nist

What makes peo­ple happy? Money from work­ing at a bazil­lion-dol­lar com­pany such as QVC in East Goshen?

Sat­is­fac­tion as ev­i­denced by toil­ing at a world­class gar­den­ing spot such as Long­wood Gar­dens in Ken­nett Square?

Suc­cess in the eyes of fam­ily and friends af­ter buy­ing a new house in a swanky neigh­bor­hood such as West­town? Sure, they all help. But, con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, the key to hap­pi­ness de­rives from a sin­gle, in­tan­gi­ble mind­set: grat­i­tude.

The the­ory has been proven in nu­mer­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies con­ducted in re­cent years at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and other col­leges around the world.

In other words, the old adage about want­ing all you have in­stead of hav­ing all you want is ab­so­lutely true. Who would have thunk? “Grat­i­tude is a sen­ti­ment we’d all do well to cul­ti­vate, ac­cord­ing to pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gists, men­tal health clin­i­cians and re­searchers who help every­one cre­ate more joy in life,” says an ar­ti­cle at www.psy­chol­o­gy­to­day. com. “Feel­ing thank­ful and ex­press­ing that thanks makes you hap­pier and heartier.”

In­ter­est­ingly, men and women who can say thank you to friends and loved ones of­ten have dif­fi­culty ex­press­ing sim­i­lar feel­ings at work.

Be­cause of the ba­sic labor­money ex­change on the job, throw­ing in grat­i­tude from ei­ther the boss or the worker side can ap­pear to tilt the equa­tion out of bal­ance.

Man­agers fear look­ing like weak­lings. Work­ers fear look­ing like suck-ups.

“Amer­i­cans ac­tively sup­press grat­i­tude on the job, even to the point of rob­bing them­selves of hap­pi­ness,” writes Jeremy Adam Smith at www.greater­good.com. “Why? It may be be­cause in the­ory, no one gives any­thing away at work; ev­ery ex­change is fun­da­men­tally eco­nomic.”

But the be­lief is flat-out wrong.

Giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing grat­i­tude re­sults in an im­mense boost to the work­place, says an ar­ti­cle at www.emer­ge­net­ics. com.

“Grat­i­tude cre­ates good feel­ings, cheer­ful mem­o­ries, bet­ter self-es­teem, en­hanced re­lax­ation and re­newed op­ti­mism,” the ar­ti­cle says. “All of these emo­tions cre­ate a pay-it-for­ward and ‘we’re in this to­gether’ men­tal­ity in the work­place which, in turn, makes your or­ga­ni­za­tion more suc­cess­ful.”

So, if you want to be hap­pier and more rec­og­nized on your job, grat­i­tude may be the way to go. Here are some spe­cific steps to take:

• Stop equat­ing grat­i­tude and money. Sure, if you are barely mak­ing ends meet and worry in­ces­santly about be­com­ing home­less, you will have dif­fi­culty be­ing thank­ful for your cir­cum­stances. But, af­ter a house­hold in­come level of about $75,000, in­trin­sic hap­pi­ness and eco­nomic sta­tus are barely con­nected. Nu­mer­ous moguls, such as Mi­crosoft’s Bill Gates, have spo­ken and writ­ten of­ten about this phe­nom­e­non.

• Refuse to com­pare your­self. The grass is greener con­cept will do you in ev­ery time when it comes to feel­ing grate­ful. In­stead of com­par­ing your $400,000 split-level with the $3,000,000 man­sion on the next block, think about your good for­tune ob­tain­ing a low-in­ter­est mort­gage when you were barely out of col­lege.

• Fo­cus on lit­tle things. Some of the wealth­i­est peo­ple on earth say they feel most happy while sa­vor­ing ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences such as lis­ten­ing to a chirp-

ing bird, feel­ing a blow­ing wind, watch­ing a bril­liant sun­set. Sure, they may be ly­ing, but I doubt it.

• Stay in the moment. Many in­di­vid­u­als ruin their hap­pi­ness by re­gret­ting yes­ter­day and fear­ing to­mor­row. If you fo­cus on the here and now, you will be far more likely to see the gifts that life is pre­sent­ing you this very moment.

• Write a grat­i­tude list. “Take a few min­utes each day to jot down things that make you thank­ful, from the gen­eros­ity of friends to the food on your ta­ble to the right to vote,” says Psy­chol­ogy To­day. “Af­ter a few weeks, the peo­ple who fol­low this rou­tine feel bet­ter about them­selves, have more en­ergy and feel more alert. Feel­ing thank­ful even brings phys­i­cal changes. List-keep­ers sleep bet­ter, ex­er­cise more and gain a gen­eral con­tent­ment that may coun­ter­act stress and con­trib­ute to over­all health.”

• Re­frame the bad times. When my hus­band died sev­eral years ago from pan­cre­atic can­cer, I was in no mood to lis­ten to ad­vice about look­ing on the bright side. What bright side? My hus­band was dead, for God’s sake.

Over time, how­ever, I dis­cov­ered a num­ber of un­ex­pected ben­e­fits of be­ing cat­a­pulted kick­ing and scream­ing into wid­ow­hood – ex­pe­ri­ences that are un­likely to have hap­pened if my spouse had re­mained on this earth. I con­nected far more deeply with fam­ily and friends. I de­vel­oped a reser­voir of em­pa­thy for others griev­ing for de­ceased loved ones. I rec­og­nized in my­self a sur­pris­ing amount of re­silience and streets­mart grit.

• Ex­press your­self. When you have a pos­i­tive thought about a col­league’s per­for­mance or be­hav­ior at work, don’t hold it in­side. At the least, tell the in­di­vid­ual that you are grate­ful to be on the same team. Writ­ing and send­ing old-fash­ioned thank you notes or whip­ping off a mod­ern text also builds up your own hap­pi­ness. So, dur­ing this Thanks­giv­ing week­end, I wish to give a shout-out to reg­u­lar read­ers of the

busi­ness sec­tion of the Daily Lo­cal. Each Sun­day, many of you de­vote a few min­utes of your valu­able time pe­rus­ing this col­umn. I am deeply and pro­foundly grate­ful.

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