As we start winding down another year, many of us are thinking back over the last twelve months, gathering our learning’s and planning what we'd like to see happen in our lives next year.
There’s a fair chance that if we all exchanged our to-do lists for next year, we’d find many similarities. Broadly speaking, the majority of people will want to get healthier, get more organised, learn more hobbies and travel more. Others want to find love or be more successful.
Regardless of the plans that are laid out, the ‘why’ behind the plans will be much the same. And that is the want to be happy. If we achieve these things next year, we will be happy as a result.
People want to lose weight to find happiness, some want to get a new job to find happiness, some want to fall in love to find happiness, others want a holiday in an exotic country to find happiness.
One of the things that us humans have in common is that we all want to be happy.
But our never-ending pursuit of happiness is just that. A pursuit. It sounds very future-based, a little out of reach and it feels like we’re never quite there. Even when we do reach the happiness goal post, we move it out further.
There are plenty of people who do manage to get what they want, yet are still not happy. There are also other people who go through a tremendous amount of adversity, who are very happy.
What is being shown now is that happiness doesn’t relate to everything working out and us getting what we think will make us happy. Happiness, is in fact created by having gratitude for what is happening in your life right now.
Gratitude is an emotion that involves expressing appreciation for what we have, as opposed to what we want. Yes we can be grateful for the weather, the food we have on the table and the lucky country we live in, but I’m talking about gratitude on a deeper level, with an ongoing habit of noticing the positive.
People I come across often give me a glazed look when I suggest adding gratitude into their lives. It’s almost like I’ve suggested something a bit lame for them to do.
Unfortunately, in Western society, practicing gratitude seems to be still relegated to the woo-woo section of the bookstore, but there is plenty of evidence out there to demonstrate it’s anything but.
More research is gathering on the power of gratitude. It’s been shown to not only boost happiness but is strongly related to all aspects of wellbeing. It improves energy levels, optimism, self-esteem and connection. It’s been shown to decreases stress, anxiety and depression.
Thankfulness has predicted lower risk of nicotine, alcohol and drug dependence as well as improved self-care, including a greater likelihood to exercise. All the things that are likely to be on the ‘quit list’ part of many a New Years Resolutions list.
When we don’t stop and literally count our blessings, the negative thoughts tend to dominate for most of us and that’s what we keep tending to see. This affects how we perceive reality and further blocks us going forward.
Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t take much time, it's cheap, you don’t need to anyone to help you with it and you don’t even need a script for it.
So this festive season try purposefully being grateful, whether by saying it out loud, writing it in a journal or just feeling it.
The more you express gratitude for what you have now, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for in 2018.
Life tends to work like that.