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Gratitude: The Fast Track to Happiness

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I have read several articles about people who win large amounts of money. You would think that being instant millionaires would make them happy. After all, they no longer have to work, they could take long luxurious vacations, or buy the car or house of their dreams. But in most cases, money didn’t contribute to their happiness. In fact, just the opposite. Friends and relatives expected them to pay for everything. Co-workers would chide them because they were taking a job away from someone who needed it more than they did. Or, they squandered the cash on frivolous things and wound up broke. For many, winning the lottery lead to divorce, fractured friendships, and depression.

So, if a lot of money is not necessarily the source of happiness, what is?

According to several researchers, one of the most powerful ways of getting more happiness in your life is to embrace gratitude.

Positive psychology and happiness researcher Shawn Achor says that it is not the big wins that fosters happiness, it’s the small things you do regularly that are more important. One of the things Achor suggests is that you send a short “thank you” e-mail or text to someone you know every day.

“We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft,” says Achor. “We had them write a two-minute e-mail praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row.” His research team found that it “dramatically increases their social connection, which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.”

Moreover, another researcher, UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb, PhD, found that it isn’t finding things to be grateful for that matter most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. So, to help you do that, here are three things you can do to cultivate gratitude:

Keep a Joy Journal: Write down the things that happen to you throughout the day that bring you joy and for which you are grateful. Remember, they need not be big things. They can be small items like a flower in bloom, a child’s hug, or a compliment from a co-worker.

Gratitude inventory: Take some time and write down all the things in your life for which you are grateful. For example, your relationships, your paycheck, your faith, your food, where you live, etc. Remember—we all have not-so-great things in our lives. Put them aside and only focus on the things for which you are grateful. Then, on not-so-great days, take them out and review them.

Be Grateful for Everything: It’s easy to be thankful for what we label as “the good stuff” in our lives but it is equally important to acknowledge, and be grateful for, the not-so-good stuff. For it is in those trying times that often become our greatest teachers to help us grow both spiritually and emotionally.

One other thing I’ve noticed about gratitude. In addition to promoting happiness, the more I focus on the things in my life for which I am grateful, the more things come into my life for which to be grateful.

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