What makes some people happier than others? Is it money? A big family? Lots of friends? Attitude? Genetics? Research in the field of Positive Psychology has examined this issue. Happiness is a result of our genes, our circumstances and ourselves.
It turns out that genetics accounts for about 50% of peoples happiness. So genetics is your set point—it is what it is. You have no control over this part of your happiness. However, there is still another 50% of happiness unaccounted for!
It turns out that life circumstances (job, money, family, friends, education, health, etc.) accounts for an additional 10% of happiness. I think of this category as “the stuff that happens to us”. We have limited control over our life circumstances and (thankfully) it has limited control over our happiness.
So the final 40% of happiness falls into the category of “intentional activities”. This includes our actions and our internal state of mind. The good news is that the majority of our happiness is related to how we choose to react to “the stuff that happens to us” in life. I think of this category as “the stuff we make happen”.
One of the intentional activities that we can do to increase happiness (up to 25%) is to practice gratitude. There are many ways increase your gratitude and a quick online search will reveal many options. Here are a few of my favorites:
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Before going to bed each night, write a list of five things about that day for which you’re grateful. Sometimes it will be big, exciting things. Sometimes is may be small things, like the way the sun lit up the clouds as you were stuck in traffic on the way home.
Four Questions (you can write these or just think about them)
A great way to bring things that you’re grateful for to the forefront of your mind is by asking yourself questions. At the end of each day, ask yourself the following four questions:
- What touched me today?
- Who or what inspired me today?
- What made me smile today?
- What’s the best thing that happened today?
Use a Gratitude Trigger
Place an object somewhere in your house or workspace which will remind you to feel grateful each time that you look at it. It can be a little sign that says “Thank You” hanging in front of your desk, or a door mat with the word “Welcome” written on it to remind you to be grateful each time that you arrive at home.
My Gratitude Trigger is actually a Gratitude Tigger! I have a small, plastic, Tigger that is suction cupped to inside of my windshield. As he bounces along with me in my car, I am reminded to be grateful for the small things in life—my car started, I’m driving to the job I love, it’s a beautiful (sunny or rainy) day, etc.
Put Things in Perspective
Obviously, things won’t always go your way. However, gratitude isn’t an emotion that is reserved for those moments when you get what you want. When things go wrong you can use the power of gratitude to release some of the negative emotions that you may be feeling due to the failure or setback that you just experienced.
After a negative event, put things in perspective by remembering that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. When faced with adversity, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s good about this?
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I benefit from this?
- Is there something about this situation that I can be grateful for?
If you would like help cultivating more happiness in your life, Claudine Miller, LPC and Chrysalis Counseling LLC is here to help. . .