How to be happy by practicing gratitude
I am lucky.
I am in good health, I have a job, a roof over my head, a bed where I can sleep, enough food in the fridge and a loving and caring family.
And so is my friend Marta. She also has a dog that adores her. She lives in a beautiful house, in a leafy area of the most beautiful town in the world, Rome (sorry, I am from Rome myself, I cannot think otherwise).
Nevertheless, when we often chat over the phone, a recurrent phrase from her side pops up in the conversation.
"Given my bad luck...".
Yes, despite the many blessings she can count in her life, she keeps focusing on the few setbacks that she encounters.
And this makes her life miserable.
If you are like Marta, no matter how many good things happen to you, you will always concentrate your attention on the occasional difficulties. A car breakdown, an annoying cold the day before leaving for holidays, a flight delay.
Marta is not alone, many people I know (clients, friends) have this tendency, and I have been affected by it for many, many years.
This bias, research suggest, has evolutionary roots and is intended to keep us safe. Among our ancestors, those who paid more attention to potentially dangerous things were more likely to survive.
But now that we may not be in constant danger, this kind of mindset is unhelpful, and we end up feeling dissatisfied all the time.
A Tibetan saying goes "The moment we are content, we have enough". The problem is that we tend to think that we can be content only when we have enough. And this makes us strive to get more and more, never feeling happy with what we have and what we have achieved in life.
Changing our perspective, appreciating what we have instead of complaining about what we don't have, may help us see life through a positive lens. It turns what we do have into enough.
Practising gratitude is known to have positive effects on our health, relationships and emotions. It makes us happier, fitter and better in interacting with other people.
So, this is what you can do if you want to start your daily gratitude practice.
At the end of each day, before going to bed, try to identify three good things that happened to you. They can be small things, like the lovely coffee you had in the morning or having spent the evening with dear friends, or bigger ones, like having got a promotion.
To make this exercise more incisive, you may want to write them down in a journal and re-read them every now and then. I promise: this little exercise will help you put everything into perspective and focus on the moment, and in difficult times it can be transformative.
(If you want to download the template of the Gratitude Journal I designed for you, click here).
Marta called me the other day and told me: "you know, I re-read my gratitude journal yesterday night, and I have realised that I really am a lucky person!"
We celebrated her realisation the next day over a cup of coffee. Another lovely moment to be grateful about!
Do you practice gratitude? I would love to hear how it helps you. Leave a comment.
If practising gratitude is not enough and you keep seeing the glass half-empty, get in touch.