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.
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?
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The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.