Greg Hicks and Rick Foster set out on a three-year journey to study extremely happy people. The began to study happiness in 1995, and they eventually traveled to all 50 states, 7 continents, and over 40 countries, finding and interviewing hundreds of extremely happy people. Their initial research uncovered a system of nine choices that’s been studied by experts. These choices are showed to lead to better health and job performance, and effective stress-management. In their book How We Choose to Be Happy, they found that there are nine choices happy people make. One of the nine is to practice Appreciation. The other choices include: Intention, Accountability, Identification, Centrality, Recasting, Options, Giving, Truthfulness, and Synergy.
Happy people actively feel gratitude and choose to live with an attitude of gratitude. They don’t buy into what geneticists say, which is that we have an unmovable “happiness set-point.” The happiest people, according to behaviorists, can move beyond the biological set point. How? Yoga, meditation, and other such practices. These are exactly the techniques I teach in my clinical practice because they work! (I can testify personally to that fact.) In fact, many studies suggest that gratitude can be learned by anyone and can be transformative. This means that by actively practicing gratitude, we can actually raise our “happiness set-point,” regardless of the situation, and no matter the circumstance. Appreciation makes us aware of the blessings present in our life moment to moment. There is always something to be grateful for if you are fully engaged in what’s happening right now instead of replaying the past or worrying about the future. Besides a higher happiness set point, ten benefits of gratitude include:
- Feeling more connected (less lonely)
- Stronger immune system
- Improved emotional equilibrium
- Better sleep
- Increased energy
- More confidence in ourselves
- Deeper relaxation
- We are more attractive
- Increased creativity
- Easier bounce back from difficulty
To experience these benefits we must consciously choose to practice gratitude. Here are some suggestions for how to practice gratitude. Consider including one of these exercises in your life:
- Set your intention to write in a Gratitude Journal for one week. Every morning, start your day with a simple gratitude exercise that involves writing down 3-10 things you are grateful for, both big and small. Some research suggests that an even more effective method is to write in the Gratitude Journal once a week. Experiment and decide what works best for you.
- Set the timer for three minutes and sit still. This is a stillness practice. Quietly think about what you appreciate. Don’t edit and no worries about if it makes sense or not.
- For a week write one thank you note per day to tell someone how much you appreciate them and why.
- Practice self-appreciation. Take time for seven days in a row to write yourself a note of gratitude. This one is my favorite.
What’s even better? Studies suggest these gratitude exercises will increase your sense of well-being by at least 10%. Don’t take my word for it. Please try it and find out for yourself. Let me know how it goes.