I was once told many years ago to just “be happy” and I remember staring at that person as though they’d suggested I grow a second head. How was I supposed to do that?! I think it is safe to say that most of us prefer to be happy; I know I’d certainly rather be in a good mood than be in a bad one. Happiness makes each day more enjoyable, and troubles less troublesome. In fact, psychological research has shown that people desire happiness even more than they desire intelligence or success (Diener & Oishi, 2006).
So how do we become happier and maintain it? Well it seems as though practicing gratefulness can help us achieve just that. Emmons and McCullough (2003) found that people who listed five things they were grateful for each day were 25% happier than people who listed five hassles each day. This finding was echoed in another study that suggested that greater happiness can be achieved by actively listing things you are grateful for once a week, rather than daily (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade 2005). The take home message is to focus on the bright side of life by literally listing things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. Do it once a week, every few days or daily; however often works for you. Take two minutes to focus on the good things in life and your mood will improve.
Here are some suggestions to give you an idea:
- My favourite shirt was clean today
- I spoke to my sister on the phone
- I completed a project I have been working on
Seems simple enough doesn’t it? Whether you’re just feeling a little down or looking for something to complement your depression treatment this is a quick yet effective exercise to practice. You’ll be happier for it.
Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2006). The desirability of happiness across cultures. Unpublished manuscript, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K.M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness : The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131.