Over the course of the past 2 years, I have found myself repeatedly buying self-help books that promise happiness. While I found many to be helpful, I still couldn’t find the roadmap to happiness in any of them. However, the more I delved into the idea of happiness, the more I came to learn that I found little pieces of happiness in small activities here and there. For instance, eating mangos or going for a walk are two things that bring me happiness. So the question is, are there certain things that help us cultivate happiness?
In a research paper by positive psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky and Ken Sheldon, it was reported that 40% of happiness might come from practicing intentional activities that might bring joy. Furthermore, positive psychology research states how there is a direct correlation between gratitude and happiness. Which means that one of the intentional activities that can help in cultivating happiness is in short, gratitude.
Consciously practicing gratitude will allow us to focus our energies on positive emotions and experiences and thus contribute to happiness. In addition, gratitude also plays a major role in our mental wellbeing. It is reported that psychological wellbeing, self-esteem and depression are significantly impacted by gratitude. According to a study at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland, researchers found that keeping a gratitude journal, writing a letter of gratitude and counting blessings helped in treating depression. The world’s leading scientific expert, Robert Emmons, states that after conducting studies on thousands of people, those who practice gratitude had better physical, psychological and social benefits.
Among those benefits were better sleeping pattern, stronger immune system, higher levels of positive emotions, happiness and lower feelings of loneliness and isolation. Gratitude does not only provide benefits to our mental and physical wellbeing, but also helps improve personal relationships as well as work relationships. Managers who express their gratitude can help employees become more motivated.
Thank you is not just a mere act of etiquette, but rather a tool of happiness. Showing someone appreciation and being grateful for them can improve relationships. Which comes to prove that the benefits of practicing gratitude are significant, and even transformative.
However, just because we have established that practicing gratitude has its benefits, does not mean it is easy. Adopting gratitude is not easy and it requires a lot of work and commitment. In order to be able to practice gratitude and integrate it into our lives, we will need to make a habit out of it. The first step is to keep a gratitude journal. You can start by mentioning 5 things you are grateful for weekly in order to train your brain to develop grateful thoughts. Setting a specific time for practicing gratitude will help you stick to the habit. You can then move on to make it a daily exercise. Start small and build from there.
Another exercise is to count your blessings regularly. You do not have to jot them down on a paper. Just make sure you are practicing it consciously and regularly. Setting reminders can be precisely helpful if you are trying to teach children about gratitude. Practicing and cultivating gratitude at a young age will help children make a habit out of it before adulthood hits.
Just like the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
When I first started practicing gratitude, I used to focus on the big main things, such as having a nice outing with friends or having a job. But soon after I began to feel gratitude towards the small things that we often unconsciously take for granted - the sweet and refreshing flavor of mangos on a warm sunny day, or a walk in nature under the beautiful sky. Through consciously practicing gratitude, I was able to enjoy and live for the little things. I soon came to realize that gratitude gives you superpowers to become your own hero.
What about you? What are some things that you are grateful for? Take a moment, breathe and let this moment mark the start of your gratitude journey.
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