We all want it and most of us have no idea how to get it. Until now???
According to researcher Dr. Steven Toepfer, THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS IS GRATITUDE.
I can hear you asking…Gratidtude for what? The economy is going down the tubes, we are running out of oil, I am working harder and longer than ever before and I still may lose my job, and on top of that, there’s the threats of terrorism and global warming.
According to Kent State University’s Dr. Steven Toepfer, we have been going about it all wrong.
“Everyone is pursuing the American dream. We are wealthier than previous generations, consuming more and experiencing more, but yet so many of us are so unhappy,” Toepfer says.
“The question of ‘is there something simple we can do to be happier?‘ is one that he has been thinking about for many years and one that has interested people for much longer.”
With that question in mind, Toepfer enlisted a group of students to explore the effects of writing letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted the students’ lives.
Over the course of a six-week period, students wrote one letter every two weeks with the simple ground rules that it had to be positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.
After each letter, students completed a survey to gauge their moods, satisfaction with life and feelings of gratitude and happiness.
“I saw their happiness increase after each letter. The more they wrote, the better they felt,” says Toepfer, who also witnessed improvement in participants’ life satisfaction and gratitude throughout the study.
“The most powerful thing in our lives is our social network.
It doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t always need to be the life of the party, but just having one or two significant connections in your life has shown to have terrific psychological and physical benefits.”
In all, 75 percent of the students said they planned to continue to write letters of gratitude even when the course was over.
“We are all walking around with an amazing resource: gratitude,” says Toepfer. “It helps us express and enjoy, appreciate, be thankful and satisfied with a little effort.
We all have it, and we need to use it to improve our quality of life.”
An Extra Bonus
And if that wasn’t enough, there is a growing body of research showing that positive emotions such as happiness are linked to good health and increased longevity.
This 2006 study showed that a PES (Positive Emotional Style – or happiness for the non-science geeks reading this) was associated with an increased resistance to the common cold and the influenza virus.
I must admit that when it comes to making health claims, I need proof. But when it comes to happiness, or examining the impact of happiness on my health / longevity, proof is a little hard to come by.
It is difficult to distinguish between the effects of positive and negative emotions. For example, do elderly living on their own or with family live longer because they are happy or because they are not sad?
It’s not a simple equation. However, modern medicine has no problem stating that emotional stress is a very real threat to our health.
So, why shouldn’t happiness be a very real benefit to our health?