Further to the conversation on increasing happiness in our lives, research suggests that one of the things that people with high levels of happiness do is remember to be intentionally grateful. Gratitude has been shown to be a very powerful antidote to sadness, frustration, depression, anxiety, and envy. By choosing to focus on and be grateful for what we do have we become much less likely to focus on or be worried about what we don’t. Now I’m not trying to be trite and recommend in the midst of despair that we should just stuff our sadness aside and look on the bright side – by no means. Sadness, frustration, and anger do have a valuable place in our lives, and giving those emotions some space is very important. That said, some boundaries with how much we indulge those emotions is very important as well. It’s not so useful to keep ourselves in an endless downward spiral of misery, and although it sometimes feels like we can’t help but feel sad, bad, mad, jealous, or worried, we in fact, to a greater or lesser extent, can.
By intentionally making a short list of things we are grateful for on a regular basis, either in our heads, by speaking them to another, or by actually writing a few down from time to time, we can’t help but start to see things differently.
The great news is that the research on happiness also shows that our personal happiness has very little to do with what we do or do not have: so for those of us who believe we would be happy if only…we would be wrong. It has very much more to do with the perspective that we chose to take. Sometimes easier said than done, but like most things that become natural this too takes patience, practice, and persistence.