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December 9, 2018

Want to Be Happy? Express Gratitude

Within the season of Thanksgiving can be found the real key to happiness – gratitude. If you want to be happy, express gratitude. Gratitude unlocks the door creating an environment for true happiness to occur.  Real happiness is linked to self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem; things money does not buy. How does this tie into gratitude?

express gratitudeWe frequently use faulty metrics to measure happiness; money, achievements, material things, for instance. But, those measurements usually lead to temporary happiness creating a need for more and more of whatever satisfies us to meet our desire for ongoing happiness which becomes increasingly elusive when we use these metrics.

Real happiness comes from within. To be happy, you have to be happy with yourself – who you are, what you stand for, what you value, how you use your talents, and how you treat others. How one treats others tells you more about a person than probably anything.

How Gratitude Creates Happiness

Gratitude  leads  to happiness in several ways. Here are eight ways gratitude can increase your happiness.

  • Gratitude enables us to relive positive memories and experiences.
  • Gratitude encourages self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Gratitude enables us to cope with stress and challenging times.
  • Gratitude enables us to develop more and stronger and deeper relationships.
  • Gratitude prevents us from comparing ourselves to others (social media encourages comparison leading to depression and unhappiness.)
  • Gratitude encourages moral behavior.
  • Gratitude prevents the expression of negative thoughts. Our thoughts shape our brain chemistry. We are what we think about.
  • Gratitude prevents hedonic adaptation. We tend to return to a pre-set level of happiness after the novelty of something wears off. Therefore we need bigger and bigger highs to capture more happiness – the so-call hedonic treadmill. At some point nothing is good enough. We become accustomed to pleasure rather quickly and need more and more stimulation.

Let’s look at some of these effects of gratitude in more detail.

Positive memories/experiences

By reliving past positive memories and experiences we can see areas where we have had success and derived pleasures. Far too often we only see the negative things that have happened to us and we forget to be grateful for the positive things. By being grateful we are more likely to be more satisfied with of our lives than we may have thought.

Self-Esteem and Self-confidence

When you realize what other have done for you and what you have accomplished yourself it is easier to see yourself as a person of value. Express gratitude and unleash this sense of self-value and prevents us from focusing on the negative things in our lives. When you value yourself you will better value others and material things.

Coping with Stress

Express gratitude to reframe the negative things in our lives. We can more easily accept our life circumstances when we are grateful. Many times the negative aspects of life make us stronger and have the ability to make our futures brighter if we allow them. Knowing that in advance makes dealing with difficult times easier.  “This will pass and I will be better for it.”

Relationships

In the end, the quality of our lives is largely determined by the quality of our relationships. And, the more and deeper your relationships the more likely you will be happy. We are kinder to others when we express gratitude and appreciate them. We attract others more easily and forge deeper relationships. What type of person do you find more attractive. Someone who is grateful, or someone who is selfish and self-absorbed?

Comparison

Express gratitude and you are less likely to be envious of others and their lot in life. Instead we can be happy for them when we are grateful for our own circumstances. Your desire to “keep up with the Joneses” diminishes when you are grateful. If you want to make others happy make your life look miserable on social media as many play the comparison game on social media. “At least my life is not as bad as _____.” That’s meant to be funny with a large nugget of truth.

Moral Behavior

Express gratitude and you are likely to treat others better, go out of our way to help them, and try to lift up others in need. We don’t focus only on ourselves when we express gratitude.

Elimination of Negative Thoughts

We are very much shaped by our thoughts. Our brain chemistry affects our thoughts but our thoughts affect our brain chemistry – something lost on those looking for happiness in a pill. It is hard to be upset or have negative emotions when we express gratitude and see the good in our lives. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to think about positive and negative thoughts simultaneously. People with depression tend to only focus on themselves. Is that a result of their depression or a contributing factor to it?

Hedonic Adaptations

When we live in gratitude we get off the vicious treadmill that leads to repetitive cycles of happiness followed by unhappiness. We become more content with who we are and what we have while we work towards bigger goals and in the continuing improvement ourselves. Becoming a better person becomes more important than achievement when we live in gratitude.

Express gratitude and you find yourself happier.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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