We all have dreams, wants, desires, and most of all happiness. They are simply a part of who we are as human beings. It comes from our ability to dream. And what is predictable in our behavior is that our dreams give us access to thinking we aren’t enough now. Our dreams take our focus off what we already have. To notice what we have already accomplished.
Yesterday is already a blur! What you dreamt about and likely have some version of now is disconnected from our minds. We have completed that desire, and it loses all its glitter. Our mind refocuses on our vision for tomorrow.
What kids have to teach us about happiness
A funny joke among parents is that we can buy some big awesome gift for our kids and they will play for weeks with the box. It isn’t that they don’t appreciate the gift. It is that their imagination allows gratitude and to see everything as an amazing possibility.
Just look at how kids play, they find happiness in every moment. Therefore they are not afraid to stop playing one thing to start another. Nothing gets in their way! And then as it happened with us, one day it all changes. We become focused on achievement, and we lose this connection with gratitude.
Letting go of what you want and noticing what you have
Happiness is ours to have in every moment and yet it is often given away in pursuit of something more or different. What helps me is to be focused and have gratitude for what I already have.
And most importantly! To recognize that even when I have goals and desires I don’t need them, I want them!
Benefits of Gratitude on Happiness and Wellbeing
In a study published in June 2017 “How gratitude changes you and your brain” in Berkeley Joel Wong and Joshua Brown studied people who were requesting mental health support. They randomly assigned the participants into three groups. All groups received counseling services, the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks. Whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.
“Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. And that’s not all. When we dug deeper into our results, we found indications of how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. While not definitive, here are four insights from our research suggesting what might be behind gratitude’s psychological benefits.”
They found these benefits:
- Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
- Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it with others
- The benefits of gratitude take time to develop and get better over time
- Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain
Ways to cultivate gratitude
According to the article “Giving thanks can make you happier” at Harvard University, here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thought about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Looking for more to read about happiness? In a recent blog post, I wrote about listening in to emotions and finding freedom in the pursuit of happiness.