Life, gratitude, and the new year
Getting happy takes effort and resolve - but is worth it.
Posted Dec 21, 2010
It is our human nature to dwell on the negative. This tendency is called the "negativity bias," or the propensity to focus on problems, annoyances, and injustices in our lives rather than focusing on being grateful for the events or people in our lives that are working and we feel good about.
Gratitude can also have a social benefit. In other research by Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and a pioneer in gratitude research, people who were assigned the task of making a daily gratitude list were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to those who focused on the hassles of life or comparing themselves to others.
Convinced? If so, then the next question is: how do we change from our negative habits to that of feeling more regular gratitude? Here is a starter list from Dr. Froh:
- Keep a gratitude journal - document daily what you feel grateful about.
- Get a gratitude buddy and talk about what you are grateful for with your buddy. Your buddy can help you make sure you acknowledge where your joy comes from (the difference between bragging and feeling grateful).
- Pay a gratitude visit to someone who has helped you in the past or write them a letter.
- Pause mindfully during the day to when something happens that you feel grateful about; make a mental note.
- Watch your language even when talking to yourself - be mindful of when you are focusing on the negative.
- Savor the good times with family and friends. Photos, drawings, written accounts and verbally acknowledging and appreciating people and events keeps you focused on the things you feel grateful for.
There will be a need for some experimentation as to what works for you (and your family). Some may find that they enjoy reviewing daily gratitude at the dinner table while others can leave a log book in the living room that can be added to on a regular basis. Others find that meditation can give them an experience of this bliss. Whatever way you find, it may feel strange, artificial, or uncomfortable at first - this is to be expected because of our natural tendency is to be negative. But after some time, our habits will change... and perhaps our life will follow. As we approach the calendar change and New Year's Resolutions it is certainly something to think about and consider, for adult and child alike.
Enjoy your life and be happy. Being happy is of the utmost importance. Success in anything is through happiness. More support of nature comes from being happy. Under all circumstances be happy, even if you have to force it a bit to change some long standing habits. Just think of any negativity that comes to you as a raindrop falling into the ocean of your bliss. You may not always have an ocean of bliss, but think that way anyway and it will help it come. Doubting is not blissful and does not create happiness. Be happy, healthy, and let all that love flow through your heart.
-- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images