You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it: One of the biggest and most significant contributors to genuine happiness and fulfillment in life comes from being intentionally grateful.
Have an attitude of gratitude (if you will).
And once word got out around the power of gratitude, the whole thing became all the rage. Everyone started following the trend of taking on a daily gratitude practice that typically goes a little something like this: “Start or end your day with 3 things you are grateful for and it will change your life.”
Well, yes and no. But mostly no. They were wrong. And this is why:
Yes, beginning said brand new gratitude practice does work and it will change your life… but only for a very short time. Being intentional about listing 3 such things we are grateful for everyday works great when it’s a new concept, but it soon gets old and tired, and our brains get bored.
As humans, we have a natural tendency to adapt pretty quickly to anything new.
For better or worse.
For better: research shows that only one year after an accident whereby an individual permanently loses the ability to use his or her lower body and becomes paraplegic, said individuals show absolutely no difference in their overall level of pre-accident happiness. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, research also shows that only one year after winning a major lottery, said lottery winners are not even a little bit happier than they were before their win (some studies even show a decline in happiness levels one year post windfall) . Sorry if any bubbles were just burst – but hey, I just saved you religious lotto players 2 bucks a week!
So the same thing happens with anything novel that we bring in to our lives – at first it seems all exciting and new, but very soon thereafter, it gets old and tired and boring (I’m not even going to go in to how consumerism capitalizes on manipulating us with this one. A WHOLE other topic for a WHOLE other day).
So what do we do? Do we just forget about being grateful ever for anything? And just go around feeling either entitled or ripped off? Or both?
No. We don’t.
Instead we do this.
We do our gratitude practice once a week. Research shows this is the optimal frequency to ensure the practice has the optimal impact. So just once a week, pick a time and think about 3 things you are really grateful for.
And then, on the other days, adopt and implement other happiness boosting exercises such as:
Once per week think about one thing that went well that day that you had a hand in (it can’t be that your favourite sports team won, it has to be something you played a part in – unless you’re on your favourite sports team and you scored the winning goal).
Once per week think about a future activity or plan that you are looking forward to.
Once per week think about 2 people who you feel deeply loved by.
Once per week bring to mind one thing you typically take for granted, but would likely suffer without (something like having 24/7 access to clean drinking water right from the tap, or a soft bed to sleep on, or a roof over your head. Y’know, theinsignificant things).
Once per week think about what you did to help someone that day (can be as simple as a free smile to a stranger).
And then take a day off, or do something else that brings you a deep sense of joy.
We often make our pursuit of happiness much more complicated than it needs to be (and we often spend the majority of our time pursuing the things we believe will make us happy, but in reality have very little to no effect on our happiness. But that too is a whole other topic for a whole other day).
So, if the whole daily gratitude practice thing has lost its luster, and thus its usefulness, now you know why. And you also now know what to do about it.
If you found this valuable, please share it. And if you do, let me know so I can thank you.
If you’d like to work with me 1:1 I do in-person sessions from my office in downtown Vancouver, or virtually to any where in the world via SKYPE.