With Thanksgiving coming soon, writing about gratitude quickly comes to mind.
I, and countless other people, have written many times about gratitude as a happiness strategy. (In fact, I just tallied it—approximately one out of seven of my posts over the past 10 years have made reference to gratitude.)
A TED Talk I watched by Brother David Steindl Rast made an important point I hadn’t thought of. Steindl-Rast is a monk and interfaith scholar.
Gratitude doesn’t come from happiness. We cannot be grateful for everything in our lives—there are certainly things that happen that are not good—but it’s hard to be happy if you are not grateful. Happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude.
That reminded me of something I learned and wrote about previously. After I read The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor, I started mentioning in my talks about something he says about happiness leading to success: the opposite of how many of us have been trained to think. “I’ll finish school and get a job. When I get a job, I’ll make money. When I make money, I’ll be able to buy stuff. And when I have stuff, I’ll be happy.” But that’s the exact opposite of how it really works.
It’s not success that brings us happiness—it’s happiness that brings us success—which is why it’s even more important than you might imagine to love what you do.
Back to gratitude—it’s easy to adopt a gratitude practice. The simplest way to start is to make a note on your phone calendar or set a reminder to think of three things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. There are numerous ways you can adapt the habit, for example: you can do it in the morning, you can list ways you are grateful for other people in your life (and then tell them!), or you can incorporate it into a meditation practice. However you choose to do it, you will benefit. I hope you will choose to do so.