Just like nearly everyone else around, I am on facebook often. I’m sure that just like me you have been seeing many facebook friends doing the 30 Days of Thankfulness where they post something different they are thankful for each day for the month of November. When I first set out to write this post, my message was going to be that this was all great and all, but that it needed to be done more often than just for 30 days once a year (although it does not need to be done publicly and actually if you did, then you might be able to add your friends reading everything you are thankful for without unfriending you as a big thing you are grateful for!). As I started to do my research to make sure that I was able to convey my message about the impact of gratitude as studied by psychologists in the positive psychology field with as much accuracy as possible, I ran across some research that proved that I am both right and wrong!
More and more people are becoming aware that gratitude and being thankful for what you have in your life increases happiness. This goes back to where you are focusing your attention. The more you think about how you can’t stand your boss and how your car is falling apart, the worse you feel. But when you start thinking about how wonderful it is that you have a job in this economy and how that car is able to get you to where you need to go you start feeling better (even if it is slowly). This is because your feelings are directly connected to your thoughts (and your behavior is directly connected to your feelings!) There is another theory/belief out there that is a bit more new age but I believe has the same effect. This is the law of attraction, which some of you may be familiar with due to the 2006 book/movie The Secret, and a little less well known is a book titled The Law Of Attraction by Esther & Jerry Hicks. To sum them up in about one sentence, they believe you have to “tell” the universe what you want in order for you to get it (and as you think, talk, and focus on negative things, the more you bring those very things into your life). Believe it or not, at the very least it does affect how you feel.
So the research I mentioned that I did earlier was that I read this interview with Robert Emmons who is a researcher on gratitude. I was surprised to read that he has found that keeping a gratitude journal for as short as 2-3 weeks can increase your happiness by 25% for up to 6 months. So going back to the 30 Days of Thankfulness on facebook, that should last you through about May, but then what? Should we wait until November again to focus on gratitude and hope that the summer sunshine has enough of an affect to brighten our mood? Well, it may help somewhat but you really should take your happiness into your own hands. In the next post I will give you a list of ways to focus your energy on gratefulness to promote happiness throughout the year.