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Count Your Blessings Rather Than Your Burdens

If you’re not feeling happy then this post can help. Did you know that more Americans are happier now than before our economy went bad? Now how does that make you feel? Stay with me though for the revelation that can lift your spirits.

Everyone who claims to be happy may have some reason for finding an upside to the downturn.  For one, we don’t expect to be making a lot more money –nor think others will be either. We’re all in this mess together – except for those at Goldman Sachs – for whom we hope karma catches up in our lifetime.*

However some research shows we may have a set point for happiness. A start-up founder may make millions then lose it all yet her level of happiness (hard as it is for me to believe) will return to the same level soon after the gain and the loss. 

Here’s the good news. There is one thing you can do, other than fall in love that will boost your happiness by 25%.  

 Scientifically speaking the secret is to feel and express gratefulness. Repeatedly. When friends ask my Dad how he is doing, he responds, “I’m grateFULL.”  It sets the stage for a convivial conversation.

With this in mind your Thanksgiving, this year, can be especially meaningful for you and for those around grateful you.

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen

Here are five tips for making gratitude “your chosen attitude.”

 1. Capture Oasis Moments

Slow down and take mental snapshots of the moments you most savor. Retain a vivid affect-image in your mind’s eye to call up in later moments of stress. In so doing you are setting the stage to see yourself as grateful.  The purple morning sunrise over Angel Island across Richardson Bay here helps start my day with sky painted, gratitude scenes.

2. Write it to Retain it

At least three times a week, write about down five specific things for which you are grateful. You’ll become happier and more optimisticRobert AEmmons and Sonja Lyubomirsky found. In fact, in her study people who kept at this practice also “spent more time exercising and reported feeling healthier, with fewer headaches, coughing or nausea.” 

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

3. Acknowledge Others’ Beneficial Acts

Let your mind go blank, then look back at the last few days to search for the situation that brought a smile to your face. Who helped make that moment happen?  Write that person a letter or a message on a colorful postcard, describing what he did and why it mattered so much to you.  For some, this act is life-changing. Equally joy-multiplying is to compliment that person in front of others, especially those who matter deeply to him.  Some research shows it is more difficult for men than for women to receive expressions of gratitude or express it.

“Silent gratitude doesn’t so very much for anyone.” ~ Gertrude Stein.

4. Inoculate Yourself From Bitterness

Feeling gratitude can actually protect us from “the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness,” research shows.  Yet this release comes only with practice, because we must first, “overcome what may be an innate human ‘negativity bias,’” – that is the notion that “incoming emotions and thoughts are more likely to be unpleasant rather than pleasant.”

5. Start a Positively Adventuresome New Chapter in Your Life

The recurring themes in your self-talk and conversations are the storyline of your life.  They affect how others see and treat you  – and how you treat yourself.  If, after an honest review of your past ten conversations, you discover a negative theme, then stop. 

Contemplate one interaction where you felt competent, happy and enjoyed the people around you. 

Share that story with a friend or colleague.  Even if you tell individuals by phone rather than in-person, you are starting a new rut in the road of your brain. And your brain has plasticity – you are able to change. You are telling yourself what’s good about you and your life. 

Stick to the honest yet positive descriptions and you’ll hone a new facet to your personality.  See your life like a movie where you want to fill out the great side of your character, create satisfying new scenes, storylines, cast of characters – and maybe eliminate some that are not serving you. 

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

* From my dig at Goldman Sachs you can see how my practice of letting go of upset and feeling grateful has a ways to go.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Oh! Kare,
    I wish I was capable to do effectively what you so well intentionally advise. “If you want to make God laugh, tell
    Him your plans don’t seem to work.” -Anon. Here are my humble tips on Gratitude: Count your blessings. First
    make a list of everything you most appreciate about your life. Gratitude is a training in vision. Before gratitude we are in the dark and there is little to appreciate; after gratitude a greater awareness dawns.
    Second list all the people to whom you are grateful. Do these people know the full extend of your gratitude? Do
    you realize how grateful they will be when you tell them? Gratitude invites more grace and success into your life. It restores a feeling of abundance, and it attracts what you most value.

  2. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Oh! Kare,
    I wish I was capable to do effectively what you so well intentionally advise. “If you want to make God laugh, tell
    Him your plans don’t seem to work.” -Anon. Here are my humble tips on Gratitude: Count your blessings. First
    make a list of everything you most appreciate about your life. Gratitude is a training in vision. Before gratitude we are in the dark and there is little to appreciate; after gratitude a greater awareness dawns.
    Second list all the people to whom you are grateful. Do these people know the full extend of your gratitude? Do
    you realize how grateful they will be when you tell them? Gratitude invites more grace and success into your life. It restores a feeling of abundance, and it attracts what you most value.

  3. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Oh! Kare,
    I wish I was capable to do effectively what you so well intentionally advise. “If you want to make God laugh, tell
    Him your plans don’t seem to work.” -Anon. Here are my humble tips on Gratitude: Count your blessings. First
    make a list of everything you most appreciate about your life. Gratitude is a training in vision. Before gratitude we are in the dark and there is little to appreciate; after gratitude a greater awareness dawns.
    Second list all the people to whom you are grateful. Do these people know the full extend of your gratitude? Do
    you realize how grateful they will be when you tell them? Gratitude invites more grace and success into your life. It restores a feeling of abundance, and it attracts what you most value.

  4. Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Hi Kare,

    Thank you for this wonderful and timely article. I absolutely agree that gratefulness is the secret sauce to a happy life, no matter one’s circumstances. This past year has been a terrible one for me financially, but looking back, one that I’m extremely grateful for. Wealth comes in many forms.

    Keep up the good work. Always enjoy your combination of insightful commentary and well-researched postings.

    Carol

  5. Posted November 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Dearest Kare,
    Timely, pithy, spot-on…wrapped up nicely with the wonderful Melody Beattie quote!
    I’m getting out my favorite fountain pen to transcribe a copy to place where I can see it often!
    And, I am also grateful for you, for all that you share with us.
    Warm Grateful Socks,
    Mary E. Rossow

  6. Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kare,

    Marriages are made in heaven but so again, are thunder and lightning. Your 5 chosen attitudes should be taken as an oppurtunity to understand more my wife. Or can I say, share with her straight away with this post 🙂 Many thanks.

  7. Posted December 30, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Kare, you’re on the top of your game with this post! Great suggestions, advice and encouragement! I love it! And I’m counting those blessings!

  8. Posted January 15, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Very true, rather than thinking about your burden you can help other to get more blessing from god

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