Tag Archives: gratitude

Five Very Big Things I’m Grateful for This Year.

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: gratitude is a critical element to a happy life.

Research shows that people who cultivate gratitude get a boost in happiness and optimism, feel more connected to other people, are better-liked and have more friends, are more likely to help others—they even sleep better and have fewer headaches.

Nevertheless, I find it…challenging to cultivate a grateful frame of mind. I find it all too easy to fail to appreciate all the things I feel grateful for—from pervasive, basic things like democratic government and running water, to major, personal aspects of my life such as the fact that my two daughters rarely fight, to little passing joys, like a warm fall day. I get preoccupied with petty complaints and minor irritations, and forget just how much happiness I already have.

So for this Thanksgiving, I decided to take a moment to think about what’s happened in my life since last Thanksgiving, to set aside a moment for thankfulness.

And boy do I have a lot to be thankful for. So much!

1. My husband’s hepatitis C is cured!

First, and by far biggest: My husband’s hepatitis C is cured! I will never stop being thankful for that, I’ll never take it for granted. (Want to read about one of the happiest days of my life, and how he got it, and how he was cured? Read here.) This will be on my gratitude list for the rest of my life.

2. My new podcast with my sister

This undertaking has been so much fun. Working on Happier with Gretchen Rubin has given me a chance to spend more time with my sister, and to collaborate with her; it has given me a whole new way to connect with people on the subjects I find fascinating; I’ve made new friends and learned new skills.  That’s a lot of thankfulness birds with one stone.

3. Doing work I love

This year my latest book, Better Than Before, hit the shelves. I feel so, so lucky that I get to do the work I love, and explore the subjects that interest me, and talk to other people about them. And people seem interested! Every time I sit down at my laptop, which happens many times a day, I feel grateful for this.

4. Our new dog, Barnaby

Podcast listeners know that I really debated whether or not to get a dog. My two daughters wanted a dog desperately, but I wasn’t sure.  In the end, I decided to choose the bigger life, and get a dog. Now we’re all so happy that we have our puppy Barnaby.

5. You

Last but certainly not least, I’m thankful for you, my readers and listeners. I started writing books before the internet made it possible to be in touch with people so easily, and I constantly marvel at how wonderful it is — and how technology just keeps making it easier to connect, and in new and intriguing ways. My understanding of my subjects has been immeasurably deepened by the comments and questions I’ve received. Just on the Four Tendencies framework alone — I wouldn’t have nearly the grasp of it that I do (I think), if I couldn’t hear from various Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, about their experiences. I so appreciate your support and enthusiasm.

The nice thing about feeling grateful is that it drives away negative emotions like annoyance, resentment, or anger. I really find this to be true. I just spent some time reflecting on the vastness of what I have to be grateful for, and as a result, the usual, petty annoyances of my day have vanished.

How about you? Do you make a special effort at Thanksgiving actually to give thanks? Does it change your frame of mind?

Agree, Disagree? “Those Who Are Not Grateful Soon Begin to Complain of Everything.”

“Those who are not grateful soon begin to complain of everything.” 

–Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

In the United States, we’re approaching the holiday of Thanksgiving — a great reminder to stop and take a moment to be thankful.

In my experience, gratitude does drive out resentment, anger, and annoyance.  And complaining! When I think about how grateful I am that I didn’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, I stop grumbling to myself about the fact that I don’t like asparagus.

Do you agree or disagree with Merton?

Podcast 31: Observe a Threshold Ritual, Choose Your Personal Symbols, and Check Your Passport.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Bonus: Noises from Barnaby the puppy!

Update: In episode 30, one of our Very Special Episodes, our special guest was my daughter Eliza. She asked, “Do you have advice for a sixteen-year-old like me?” Thanks to everyone for sending in such thoughtful advice. Keep it coming.

Try This at Home: Observe a threshold ritual. As promised, I’ve posted a photo of Elizabeth’s sign — actually two photos, from where she kept the sign in two different (more…)

Do You Keep a Contented Heart? I Work at This.

“This day by God’s mercy I am 29 years of age, and in very good health, and like to live and get an estate; and if I have a heart to be contented, I think I may reckon myself as happy a man as any is in the world, for which God be praised. So to prayers and to bed.”

Diary of Samuel Pepys, February 1662

I love this passage, and it inspired the resolutions for the month of November in The Happiness Project. I resolved to “keep a contented heart,” because I realized that no matter what’s happening in my life, I’m going to be happy only if I “have a heart to be contented.”

One of my most frequent faults is fretfulness — annoyance and complaints about minor inconveniences or little mistakes or oversights by others.

You can hear Elizabeth and me talk about this issue on the podcast, episode 20...when she mentions a time when I complained to my husband about the onions he put in the frittata. I complained — but then I did eventually remember to keep a contented heart, and I apologized for my carping.

One of my main aims is to remember how happy I already am. Do you struggle with this?

Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Can the simple act of making a list boost your happiness?

When I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kind, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

Sparrows feeding their young

To pass a place where babies are playing.

To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.

To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.

To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.

To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

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Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m make a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Request signed, personalized bookplates for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Request signed, personalized “Tips for Happiness in Your New Home” card for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.