“Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance. Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us. Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy. The root of joy is gratefulness. We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.
We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.“ (David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, 1984)
Being grateful does make us feel joyful – I think that’s because when we are feeling grateful we are recognizing blessings we’ve receive from a higher power – for me the higher power I believe in is God, for others it may be Mother Nature or the Universe, etc. – whatever higher power you believe in, the important thing is that you are able to recognize and appreciate all that it has brought and is bringing into your life.
It’s not only important to feel grateful, it’s also important to express gratitude:
A psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania named Dr. Martin Seligman did a study looking at the impact of various positive psychology interventions on people. When the participants were given the assignment to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness, they had a huge increase in their happiness scores, in fact, this simple act had the greatest impact of all the interventions tested and the benefits of it were found to last for an entire month!
So here’s what I am thinking – if all of us found one person a day who has never been properly thanked for their kindness and we write the a handwritten note and delivered it, and then we did that each day for the 15 days left between now and Thanksgiving, we would literally get 15 times the benefits of happiness for the entire month of December! How awesome would that be?!
Just think about it – we would be brightening the lives of 15 people and creating a MEGA-HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON for us! It’s a win/win!! Plus I can’t think of a better way of celebrating this month of Thanksgiving than by expressing gratitude to brighten the lives of others.
~Amy Rees Anderson