The chicken or the egg?

What comes first?

We haven’t resolved this question when it comes to the chicken and the egg, but there are answers being revealed when it comes to happiness.

Most people just want to be happy.

Our happiness matters, as happy people tend to:

  • Be healthier
  • Have better relationships
  • Experience greater vigour and energy
  • Have a better sense of humour
  • Live longer

Not surprisingly, happiness affects both the quality and the quantity of our lives.

It’s common to hear people putting off happiness to some elusive future date. I’ll be happy when… (you fill in the blank).

Why wait? Start now, you deserve it.

Knowing how we can cultivate greater happiness in our lives isn’t as difficult as you might think. Happiness isn’t contingent on external circumstances; it’s a inside job.

Interestingly, environmental circumstances only account for 10% of our happiness, while our genetics and personalities are 50% responsible. Yet, we don’t have to be victim to these factors.

Our power abides in the remaining 40%, in which we are able to influence our happiness with intentional activities.

There are simple, quick, and easy things we can do to increase our own levels of happiness.

Happiness and gratitude are hot topics in the research world. Interestingly, multiple researchers have found a strong positive correlation between happiness and gratitude.

Back to the riddle of what comes first: are we more grateful because we’re happy, or are we happier because we’re grateful?

Multiple studies reveal one sure fire way to increase happiness is to, first, be grateful.

Practicing gratitude boosts the production of neuro-chemicals and hormones that support well-being. Our brains and our bodies benefit from practising gratitude.

We can re-wire our brains for gratitude. When we engage in gratitude practices over time, there are lasting changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with decision-making and learning.

Even if we can’t find anything to be grateful for, the mere practice of stopping to look for something to be grateful for creates a shift.

Or, you can up the power of gratitude to improve happiness.

While merely listing what we’re grateful for is helpful, thinking of why we’re grateful for the items on our list enhances the benefits we receive.

Try this out for yourself, paying attention to how you feel inside.

Think of something you’re grateful for, pause for a moment, and notice how you feel. Then list the reasons why you’re grateful. How do you feel now?

For example, my husband, Tom is frequently on my gratitude list. That’s nice.

But when I consider all his beautiful personal qualities and the amazing way he supports me, I can feel a deepening of my gratitude. Sometimes, I’m moved to lovely tears as I remember how blessed I am and I appreciate him even more. And, what we appreciate grows; it appreciates.

Don’t save gratitude for just the big or fancy stuff. I practise gratitude for some of the most basic things that are easily overlooked, such as a warm and comfy bed to sleep in, the sunshine, or new growth on the trees.

The use of my gratitude journal improved dramatically when I started storing it on my pillow with a pen tucked inside. I can’t forget like I used to.

Considering the many blessings of my life just before going to sleep is the perfect way to enter dreamland.

Even my most challenging days are filled with reasons to be grateful, and the focus on negative thoughts is reduced as I remember to look for the good.

Another of my favourite gratitude practices is the old-fashioned thank-you card; I keep a stock on hand. I love to send thank you cards, all jazzed-up with colourful and fun stickers.

I find myself continually canvassing my life for the good to find reasons to send a card. I love how it feels inside of me to consider my wonderful friends and family and sincerely thank them.

For me, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Card writing fills my heart and people love to receive my jazzed-up creations. In the process, my mind and body benefit greatly.

Gratitude is such a simple practice, it’s portable and it’s a proven method to increase happiness.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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