The most common question I get asked in my office is, “How can I be happy? Is there a trick or something I can do?” Happiness is subjective—everyone views it differently. This lesson is taught to me every week in my psychology practice in Beverly Hills. Some people have what seems to be a great life—family, friends, rewarding job, but they are very sad and discontented. Others have very little—they lost their job, their boyfriend and are feeling alone, but they are basically happy. How can this be? One of the key factors in your sense of happiness is how much gratitude you feel and practice. Yes, gratitude is something you can learn and practice. Research has shown that feelings of gratitude may be beneficial to subjective emotional well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
In many families, mine included, every year at Thanksgiving, we go around the table and before we dig into our feast, we each say what we are thankful or grateful for. People across the country are thankful for family, health, support, a great job, a great meal, friends, wonderful children and so many other things. On Thanksgiving, we are always full. We are full of turkey and pumpkin pie, but we are also full of gratitude for our lives. What if every day were like Thanksgiving? I am only talking about the gratitude—not the feast!
Taking time most days of our lives to stop and focus on what we are grateful for has a wonderful effect on our well being. If you are reading this, I will bet you are interested in increasing your level of gratitude and happiness, so maybe you are willing to take the Gratitude Challenge.