Cultivating gratitude can lead to happiness

Hacking happiness

Most people just want to be happy, but they find themselves playing a game of seek-and-don’t-find in the outer world.

Cultivating greater happiness in our lives isn’t as difficult as you might think. Happiness isn’t contingent on external circumstances, it’s an inside job.

It’s common to hear people putting off happiness to some elusive future date. I’ll be happy when… (fill in the blank.) Why wait? Start now, you deserve it.

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.

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 a victim of 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. The answers lie within.

Multiple studies reveal one sure-fire way to increase happiness is to, first, be grateful. Happiness and gratitude are hot-topics in the research world. Interestingly, multiple researchers have found a strong positive correlation between happiness and gratitude.

Brene Brown, researcher and author, found the relationship between joy and gratitude to be both surprising and important. She wrote, “in my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.”

We can re-wire our brains for gratitude and happiness. When we engage in gratitude practices over time, there are lasting changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with decision-making and learning. Practicing gratitude boosts the production of neurochemicals and hormones that support well-being.

Our brains and our bodies benefit from practicing gratitude, improving our heart-health, blood pressure, sleep and reducing pain. Grateful individuals have improved impulse control, and tend to be more motivated and productive. 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. Delving into the reasons we’re grateful allows the felt sense of gratitude to be experienced by our bodies.

Don’t save gratitude for just the big or fancy stuff. I practice 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. 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.

The use of my gratitude journal improved dramatically when I started storing it on my pillow with a pen tucked inside. Considering the many blessings of my life just before going to sleep is the perfect way to enter dreamland.

Through practicing this over the years, just the sight of my journal causes a positive shift inside my body and I can feel it.

Gratitude can become a family practice, and is the perfect way to wire our kids to be happier. Families who pause to state something they’re grateful for are hacking happiness for the whole family. Dinner time is the perfect opportunity. Not only does it invite more joy into the house, it helps lead to healthier conversations around the dinner table.

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.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress 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 44 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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