There are few things in the world that everyone agrees on. The most simple and profound thing is that we all want to be happy. Fox News anchors and Barack Obama both want to be happy. Chris Brown and Rihanna? Them too. Yankees fans and Red Sox fans both want to be happy. Israelis and Palestinians both want to be happy. Pretty simple. Surprisingly enough, happiness is also pretty simple.
We've heard forever that money can't buy happiness, so that one is out. Although there certainly is an "app for pretty much anything" -- there isn't one for happiness. There is something that works though, and it works every time. Gratitude. Until we are grateful for the things and people we have in our lives, we will never be satisfied with the things we try endlessly to acquire. Philosophers and laymen have been preaching the importance of gratitude since time immemorial, but just recently researchers started testing gratefulness in laboratories, and the results have been incredible. Gratitude changes the brain, it makes us happier and it in fact allows us to be happier. But gratitude changes more than brain chemistry -- it changes everything. It makes us better, it makes us kinder, it makes us happier, it makes us whole.
Here are four ways gratitude will improve your life:
1) Relationships -- Shakespeare had a way with words -- let's take look at what he had to say about gratitude's opposite: "I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood." Heavy stuff. If Shakespeare hates ingratitude, then your friends probably do to. Be thankful for the compliments your friends give you, for the checks they pick up, for just being there -- and it won't be long before you'll have more friends to be thankful for.
2) Health -- Phd. Robert A. Emmons recently conducted a study on gratitude at UC Davis which proved measurable benefits on psychological, physical, and interpersonal health for subjects who practice gratitude. Most interestingly, he wrote that "Evidence on gratitude contradicts the widely held view that all people have a 'set-point' of happiness that cannot be reset by any known means." Simply put: You can actually be happier than you've ever been if you practice gratitude. It just keeps building you up. It's just science.
3) Strangers -- Why did the Free Hugs Campaign get almost 75 million views on YouTube? Because people love it when other people are good to random people. That's a lot of goodness and a lot of people. But you get the point. Be good to strangers. Be thankful for strangers. Strangers will become friends if you just let them.
4) Spiritually -- It doesn't matter whether you are a conservative Christian, a mitzvahed Jew, a nature loving Shaman, or a devoted Yogi -- no matter what you believe about how it all ends, something in the core of every human being believes that it is important to be thankful while it's all happening. There is nothing that satisfies the soul quite like a self-reminder that there is always something and someone to be grateful for.
Get in the habit, join the movement.
Matt Richardson is the Co-Founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. Find out more about his campaign here.