Want to be happy? Be grateful
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.