A simple way to happiness…

“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”

Like most of you, I grew up knowing it was important to give thanks. However, back then it was more out of a fear of being ‘given out to’ if I didn’t show my manners than any understanding why!

It was about ten years ago when I was studying Positive Psychology that I really started to understand how being thankful was actually good for us. Research was beginning to show that people who practice gratefulness are happier, less depressed, more satisfied with their lives, are more optimistic and experience more positive emotions. Who wouldn’t want some of that?!

And it’s so simple to do… all you need to do is get yourself a journal and everyday write out three things you are grateful for. Keep your Gratitude journal somewhere you will see it everyday and try to write in it at the same time everyday as this will help build the habit. Either first thing in the morning or last thing at night works well – or both if you really want to get into it! The things you write about can include absolutely anything from being grateful for your ability to see to that car parking space you got earlier. Big or small, it doesn’t matter, what’ important is that it is meaningful to you at this moment.

Over time you will notice that you start to think more positively and find the good in situations. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have you begin to appreciate everything you do have. The beauty is you can practise gratitude anytime, anywhere. Rather than stressing out at red lights or in a queue, use that time to think of all the things you are grateful for. It’s a wonderful practise to get children into too and as a family we start our meals by saying what we are grateful for and again at night after bed time stories.

I often practise it when exercising too. I remember doing an adventure race and feeling tired, wet and cold while on the bike heading up a tough hill and started to think – “Why am I doing this?!” I quickly became aware of my negative thinking and started to think of all the things I was grateful for about the event, including being so grateful that I had the ability to be able to cycle, that I had the freedom to take some time out of my day to exercise, how beautiful the scenery was (heading up to Moll’s Gap in Killarney!) etc. Once my thoughts shifted, my gears did too and I zoomed up the rest of the climb and really enjoyed it!

Have fun with this practise and pay attention to the changes it will bring about!