Happy New Year!
As we head into 2016, most people start setting goals for the year, or at least start thinking about what changes they would like to make in their lives. The mindset of “Yay! Fresh start!” permeates the air. I love a good ol’ fresh start myself. This year I want this fresh start, this opportunity for growth, to be a successful one for me. So, I have decided that gratitude is the best starting point for me.
My own observation is that most goals tend to have a back story; a search for happiness. Who doesn’t want that?!?! Happiness means different things to everyone; however the most important aspect of the search for happiness is your perception. Happiness is not a destination, it is a process. Sounds cheesy, I know, but think about it, if you wait until the moment that you have “made it”, there is a chance that you will not feel like you had expected. What if you are waiting for something that doesn’t happen all at once? What if you missed all the little “wins” along the way? If you want to achieve your goals this year, start shifting your perspective from happiness being an “end game” to it being a journey or a process. Way better than waiting for that one magical moment! 🙂
Take the time to notice the infusions of happiness in even the smallest moments in your life. Let’s balance those thinking patterns with some positive perspectives and create an upward spiral of positive emotions! (Garland, Fredrickson, Kring, Johnson, Meyer & Penn, 2010 – Full Article)
Squeeze a little gratitude into the process and you will notice that a little happiness creeps in. When we feel positive emotions, we tend to be more motivated to persist. Simple formula: Happiness = Motivation to work on your goals. So, since goals are very important to our personal empowerment, success and happiness; we need to add a little gratitude “fuel” to get us there.
I have learned so much from students who have fled difficult circumstances around the world. Most notably, the power of human beings to overcome, to persevere and to do so much more than “just survive”… being able to thrive and flourish after horrible experiences. Gratitude seems to be the common theme.
It’s my favourite time
Research conducted by Emmons & McCullough (2003), divided research participants into two groups: “Hassles” and “Gratitude” groups. One group was told to focus on the hassles (negative) in their life by recording 5 weekly hassles and the other group was to focus on gratitude (positive) by recording 5 weekly things they were grateful for. The following is what they found:
People in the “Gratitude Group”…
- showed a 25% increase in happiness
- were more optimistic about the future
- felt better about their lives
- did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than those in the Hassles Group.
Yes! gratitude sets your mind to “success mode” so you can fit into your pants again 😉
I can’t help myself…
One More Psych-Nerdy thing !
- Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson (2005) carried out a pretty cool study. They had participants do a simple gratitude exercise every day for a week. The participants were then asked to continue this practice on their own. The researchers followed up with the participants 6 months after and found that the group that participated in this simple gratitude exercise were happier and less depressed than the other group.
Try it out!
The Gratitude Exercise
Convinced by the research? Well, even if you’re not, the beauty of this exercise is that it’s so easy that it shouldn’t even be called exercise. All you need is enough time – as little as two minutes – to think of three things that you are grateful for: things that benefit you and without which your life would be poorer. It can be anything, big or small. Then, if you’ve got time, you can think about the causes for these good things. Write it down. And that’s it!
The danger is that this exercise seems so trivial that you may think that it isn’t worth doing. But consider this: people are constantly worrying about things they don’t have or things that haven’t happened, consequently they rarely take stock of the beneficial things that they do have and good things that have already happened. If it’s possible for even the simplest negative thought to provoke a change in mood, then why not a positive grateful thought as well?
Video Snack Time!
The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.
Thank you so much for a wonderful 2015!
I am very grateful for all of your kind words, suggestions, questions, comments and participation. I look forward to what 2016 brings!
Dr. Heather Drummond, C.Psych.
Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389 [Full text PDF].