Increasing the world’s happiness quotient
one resolution at a time
At this halfway point in the Happiness Goals Countdown, it’s time to think about the power of gratitude. You really can become happier when you consistently focus on what you’re grateful for.
A 2010 report by Wood and colleagues published in Clinical Psychology Review states that gratitude contributes to people’s well-being.
But you have to actively cultivate your sense of gratitude. This is most easily done with a gratitude journal. At the end of every day you write down at least three things that went well that day, and why. This daily practice helps you think about positive things. Your happiness rises because you’re not letting negativity rule your thoughts.
Evidence gathered in a 2005 study by Seligman and colleagues published in American Psychologist showed that positive psychology practices increase happiness. Gratitude journaling is a positive practice because you’re doing it with the intent of improving your emotional state.
In fact, the "three good things" exercise was an intervention used by Seligman and his colleagues in this study which was shown to increase happiness and decrease depression for a full six months!
As they describe the exercise:
Three good things in life.
Participants were asked to write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week. In addition, they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each good thing. (p. 416)
This conscious effort to focus on blessings was the subject of a 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Their article "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens" investigated the influence of gratitude on well-being. Emotional benefits like happiness can be improved through a purposeful effort to be grateful.
If you’re troubled by a negative voice in your head, keeping a gratitude journal will build new mental habits. When you take time every day to write three things to be grateful for, you can’t help but feel happier after doing it.
The goal of writing three things each day does not have to be a burden. You can start with just a simple list if you don’t have much time. Perhaps some days you’ll feel like writing more. What’s important is to focus on what went well, and why.
You’ll find that the time spent thinking about your three things will feel good too. In the next Happiness Goals Countdown email you’ll learn how quiet time boosts happiness .
Artist: Browne, Henriette