How Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Have you ever wanted something new?
A new car, house, promotion?
What happens when you get it?
Does it wear off ?
Do you get bored with it and stop appreciating it only to have your sights set on a newer phone, newer house, or a newer promotion?
We think deep down that what we are aiming for is going to provide us with happiness, but it only brings a temporary pleasure that isn’t sustainable over the long term.
In fact, this cycle is the phenomenon known as the hedonic treadmill. This means our baseline to achieve happiness increases each time we get what we think what we want. As we continually move the goalposts for happiness in our brain, we can never be happy long term. Now that I have depressed you enough, there is an alternative, and it comes down to being more appreciative of what you already have.
Enter the practice of gratitude.
Simply put, gratitude is just being happy with what you have. Gratitude is a way to reset our “happiness baseline” and keep it at a sustainable level. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep gaining things or working harder, it just means being happy with and appreciating what you have. If you’re sitting and looking at your old shoes and upset with them, try feeling the same way sitting next to a guy with no shoes. This is extremely helpful for work stress.
Some brilliant advice I’ve received is: “Things can always be worse.” When you have a bad day at work, go talk to the guy that shovels the elephant cages at the zoo.
Even if you aren’t in love with your current job, you still have one and can put food on the table and have a place to live. Essentially, what gratitude does is instead of making forward comparisons like “I wish I had a yacht.” It makes the backward comparison of, “Wow, I’m so lucky to not live on the street.” Now, I don’t mean if you get hit by a car, it means you must be thankful it wasn’t a bus. I want to make sure I don’t lose people here; I am all for working hard and improving.
The goal is to create an appreciation for what is good in your life.
Gratitude is a great way to rewire your brain to notice the good things that happen in life.
Have you ever wanted to buy a new car? Maybe you look at a certain model, then you see that car everywhere. The reason for this isn’t that everyone else started buying the same car, it’s that you have trained your brain to notice that car. Gratitude works similarly; you are rewiring your brain to see the bright side, slowly but surely. This process works like any habit. The more practice you have, the better the results. Over time, you will notice the things that are good in life and appreciate them more.
Developing a deliberate gratitude practice helps reduce negative feelings and emotions. The practice is simple and can take many forms. The important part is doing it daily to get the best results. If you are having a bad day, keep your bar low. Your list doesn’t have to be having a nice car or getting a huge raise at work. In fact, it is better to use things like petting your dog, having a comfortable bed or eating a good meal. For the next seven days, when you start your day, write a list of 3 things you are grateful for. These can be anything, but make sure you aren’t doing the same three things each day.