Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happiness Project: Gratitude

In the words of Gretchen Rubin:

“Gratitude is important to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance—it’s harder to feel disappointed with someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her. Gratitude also connects you to the natural world, because one of the easiest things to feel grateful for is the beauty of nature.”

Before I even started reading The Happiness Project, I began a list of things I was grateful for. I wanted to remind myself of the good things in life, rather than focusing on the things I was not happy with. It started out with the obvious (my husband, my family, my job) but has since morphed into other things, things that might be considered mundane but that bring me happiness anyway. For a while, I would write down three things each day. My mother and I would email our daily list to each other—it was her idea to start the exchange, probably after listening to me complain too much about what was going wrong in my life.

But, like Rubin states in her book regarding her gratitude journal, “…after two weeks of keeping a gratitude notebook, I realized that although gratitude boosts my happiness, my gratitude notebook wasn’t having that effect anymore. It had started to feel forced and affected, and instead of putting me in a grateful frame of mind, it made me annoyed.” I found this true of myself as well. I was forcing thankfulness just to fill in those three blanks each day. It became more of a chore than an expression of happiness. Rubin eventually gave up writing in her gratitude journal, and I eventually did the same.

A month or so later, however, I read 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik. I liked a lot of what he had to say. He was thankful not only for things and people, but also for the things that other people did whether it was to help him in some way, or just what they did in general. He started out with the idea of writing one thank you note a day. But it turned out that sometimes he’d write more than one a day or not at all on other days. The point was to write them when the situation and/or mood called for it.

So, I thought I could do basically the same thing—write down what I’m grateful for when the realization strikes me. Generally, I should remember to be thankful for at least one thing a day. But the truth is, if I force myself to do it and it becomes a chore, then I won’t do it at all. And it’s too important a task to me to give up on altogether. My solution was to make Gratitude its own section in my Happiness Binder. In that section I have some notes from Kralik’s book as well as my own list of things to be thankful for.

Here are some of the things listed in that section:

Soup (I absolutely love soup)
Chocolate (specifically of the dark variety)
Annual vacations
New York City
Great books
Family dinners
Laughter
Warm blankets
Relief
Singing
Inspirational quotes (also a section in the Happiness Binder – post to come)
Evening walks
Lists
Post-its
The little things in life (which is somewhat redundant since this is a list of those things)
Humor
Writing
Surprises from friends
Unexpected evenings at home
Clarity of mind
Road trips
Dunkin Donuts’ blueberry muffins (one of my *very* guilty pleasures, which I allow myself only once in a while)
Bags, bags and more bags
Philofaxy and all related Filo blogs (of course!)

I’m also thankful for only two more planned Happiness Project posts before the big reveal of the Happiness Binder!

4 comments:

  1. oh I could definitely understand bags, bags and more bags as well as anything filofax related! Lots of your other points also make me happy and of course reading your blog!

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  2. Yay - another bag lover! Thanks for the compliment. I do so enjoy writing posts.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your project with us. I've been laid rather low for a few weeks and your posts have been little nudges to keep moving forward, to keep working at things.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing your Happiness Binder.

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  4. M Ng - I hope everything is okay. I'm glad you've been enjoying my happiness project posts. I've enjoyed writing them, though I have to say that I've been itching to write the post on the binder since I started this. That's is why we're here, of course - to see Filos! It has taken me a while to set it up just the way I want it to be.

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