Why Gratitude Isn’t Making You Happy… Yet

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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practicing gratitude

Gratitude is as close as you can come to a guaranteed path to happiness. It’s proven not just to make you happier, but to make you more likeable and to increase your odds of succeeding at work and in school. This is probably not news to you.

Gratitude also appears to be a pretty easy concept. Recognize and appreciate what you have. Remember that things could be worse and that someone else is happier with less. Avoid getting hung up on “first world problems”You already know this stuff, too.

Gratitude is a no-brainer.

And yet, I frequently hear about how difficult gratitude is for people to actually implement consistently.

When I ask people what prevents them from being happy, they tell me that it’s remembering to be grateful in the midst of real life happening. Despite knowing that gratitude will probably make us happier, we don’t feel it as often as we’d like.

If gratitude is so easy, why isn’t everyone happy?

Gratitude is deceptively simple.

It’s so easy to feel that we forget to do it.

Let’s go back for a moment to all of those proven benefits of gratitude:

  • Happiness
  • Likeability
  • Success

How were they proven? By various researchers who studied grateful people. Specifically, they studied what happened when people practiced gratitude.

Every study I’ve come across on gratitude asked the participants in the grateful group to write down what they were feeling grateful for or to spend a set amount of time thinking about what they had.  The researchers didn’t just ask “who knows how lucky they are?” and study the people who raised their hands. They have some people practice gratitude, and some people proceed without practicing. It’s the difference between doing and not doing that is analyzed.

Practice as it relates to gratitude is a verb.

This makes perfect sense when you consider how many other practices only work when they become tangible, when they are actually done rather than merely thought about.

  • Goals are significantly more likely to be reached when you write them down.
  • Budgets are followed only when you create them.
  • Weight loss is easier when you weigh yourself regularly.

Perhaps this is why people who pray are reportedly happier than people who do not. Certainly many of those prayers are for giving thanks.

Of course, you don’t have to get on your knees to practice gratitude.

But you are going to want to practice if you want to experience the benefits. You’re going to have to stop assuming you’ll remember to appreciate what you have and start making it a priority to regularly count your blessings. Literally.

The good news is that practicing gratitude is easy once you get started.

You can go as simple as making a mental checklist every night before you go to bed of the things for which you’re grateful. You can step up your game and put paper to pen in a gratitude journal. You can download an app and make your practice digital.

Practicing gratitude is just as easy as you think it is.

The tricky part is convincing yourself that going through the motions of practicing matters. You have to let go of the notion that you’ll just remember to feel a certain way. You have to let go the idea that those silly little exercises are silly. They’re effective.

I experienced this when I quit smoking. I tried so many times to quit – and I was even successful for a while, until I wasn’t. But the last time, I decided to fork over the cash for a prescription to help. I’d spent so much damn money on the doctor’s visit and the medication that I was determined to do every single thing possible to ensure my success, including going to the support website and going through all the stupid little exercises.

I wrote down my reasons for wanting to quit. I wrote down my plans for coping with cravings. I logged into that silly little site every single day for months, just like they suggested, even though I was pretty sure it was completely unnecessary.

It’s been 1,152 days since I’ve had a cigarette.

Easy can be effective.

Easy may be the only thing standing between you and happiness.

Did you like this post? I write more about using gratitude to find happiness in my book, An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. Click here to be notified as soon as it’s available!

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  1. Carly says:

    This was so powerful for me. Very good post and a great reminder that we only get out of life what we earn through our dedication and hard work.
    Carly’s most recent post: A Brief Message for Charish’s Mama

    • Miss Britt says:

      I love the way you worded this! I never thought about it from the standpoint of “getting out of it what you put into it”.

  2. Nanna says:

    Good and important point. The work still needs to be done. Even relatively easy “work”like this.
    Nanna’s most recent post: Beauty From Ashes

    • Miss Britt says:

      I actually like thinking of it like work. Isn’t that funny?? I think I’m more likely to do it if it’s work.

  3. Lisa says:

    I’ve been using the Happier app and it has definitely made it easier to be mindful of gratitude. I’m not sure that it’s made a difference in my happiness, but it definitely has in my mindfulness, which is a start.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think I’m going to try and end my day making sure I have three things in the app. A few people told me they do that and I think it will make a bigger impact for me that way.

  4. Megan says:

    It worries me that you know exactly how many days it’s been since you’ve had a cigarette. But I’m so proud of you for doing it.

    I need to get back to the gratitude practice. I feel out of it because life, but I need to MAKE the time.

    Thanks for the reminder. :)
    Megan’s most recent post: Fifty-Two, Week 46: Stop & Go

  5. Hi, My name is Suzanne Perryman of SpecialNeedsMom.com. I was fortunate to be named as one of BlogHer’s 2013 Voice Of The Year Bloggers ( Op-Ed) . I just wanted to visit your blog, learn a bit from your experience, and thank you for being a reviewer.

    Writing is my thing, and I celebrate the simple, everyday of special needs parenting, one story at a time. I have never been to a blogging conference and look forward to attending this one! It is very cool to be recognized for what you have written, as a newbie to this community.

    I enjoyed your winning post from last year, and I just wanted to say thanks for contributing to the process. I loved your site and the pursuit of happiness- I believe in keeping it positive and have seen first hand how those that struggle with this, live a different life.

    Suzanne Perryman
    http://www.specialneedsmom.com
    Suzanne Perryman’s most recent post: Celebrating The Simple Every Day, One Story At A Time

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