It’s a peculiar phrase – “happy thanksgiving” – but also profound. It’s more than just turkey and time with the family. It’s about true happiness through gratitude.
We all search for happiness. But with all the stress and worry in our modern lives – from relationships to work, friendships and more – happiness can be difficult to manifest.
What makes the phrase “happy thanksgiving” so profound is that, in fact, our happiness is directly tied to our gratefulness (i.e. gratitude – being thankful). And today presents the perfect opportunity to find our happiness again – by being thankful.
What Gratitude Does
According to the Harvard University Health Blog:
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
And there have been studies done on this.
Two psychologists from the universities of Miami and California asked three groups of study participants to write down their thoughts daily. One group wrote about positive things that happened during the day, while another group focused on what aggravated them throughout the day. The third did not focus on neither negative, nor positive.
After 10 weeks, the researchers found the group that focused on gratitude (writing about positive things they enjoyed about daily life) was more optimistic, felt better about life, exercised more and visited doctors less than the other groups.
There have been other studies on the effects of gratitude as well – one which even found that being thankful and expressing gratitude to one’s partner can actually improve and strengthen a relationship.
There’s no doubt that the struggles we face – from relationships, to work and daily life – can become overwhelming, sometimes to the point where it becomes difficult to see any of the good. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just may require a little more searching. And being able to find that goodness can go a long way in our overall sense of happiness in life.
But even if it’s so bad that you think there’s nothing to be happy or thankful about, that’s not the reality. The source of your anxiety, stress or fear may be what you can be thankful for. Every obstacle, after all, is an opportunity to learn or improve your life.
How Can I Be Happier?- Linda Esposito
A Glass Half Full
Psychotherapist Linda Esposito recently wrote about the 3 most common things people bring to her in her therapy sessions. The #1 thing people ask is “How Can I Be Happier?”
And it’s not surprising that the second and third things can be directly related to one’s sense of happiness – “How can I learn to trust myself and others” and “How can I get rid of anxious thoughts so that I can focus on my priorities?”
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but hunkering down and working on the basic components of a satisfying life can go a long way toward achieving mental peace and emotional well-being.
Happiness is largely determined by how you handle stress. Listen to your fears, and spend time every day quietly thinking about them. Sit with them, and maybe even thank them. Ask yourself: What lesson am I supposed to learn?
Re-framing your stress and worry into something more positive – a “glass half full” approach vs. a “glass half empty” mindset – is truly the first step in changing your relationship with gratitude and finding lasting happiness.
Stress, anxiety, worry and sorrow are never going to completely go away in life. But how you handle these situations will determine your overall sense of happiness. And it starts with being thankful for and focusing on the good, even as it relates to the bad.
By being thankful, you may just find more joy in everything – from your relationship to your work and everything in between.
So one more time – Happy Thanksgiving! Give thanks, find happiness.