One Step to Becoming Happier Today

Oct 3, 2013 -

Simple Way to Be Happier - Be Grateful

What makes you happy? When you are out having fun? What about when you are hanging out with friends? Should you come across delicious food, does that make you happy? Making money must right? Have you thought about being in another country?

While all of these may appeal to your five senses, psychologists argue there is another major contributor to your happiness.

Martin Seligman and Tracy Steen of UPenn and Christopher Peterson of University of Michigan conducted a series of happiness experiments, controlled with placebo exercises, with over 570 participants.

One of the most thought provoking exercises they had the participates perform was called the gratitude visit. Each week the participants were to write and deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked. Among the other daily exercises were the following: writing three things that was good in life, writing about a time when you were at your best, and writing about early memories (control).

Of the five or so experiments the psychologists conducted, the gratitude visit evoked the largest positive change in the whole study.  

Subsequently, Soul Pancake produced a video whereby they conducted a happiness experiment on this contributing factor. They asked a number of individuals to write a letter about someone they thought was influential in their life. Then they had them call the person and read it to them. Some of them were able to reach that person over the phone and some were not.

The ones who were able to share their grateful thoughts experienced increased happiness levels of 4% to 19% versus those who did not still experienced 2% to 4%. 

Happiness levels were measured with two questionnaires one taken before and another after the experiment. The questions were inherently the same before and after the experiment, but phrased differently. Whether or not you expressed gratitude to another, the fact that it was written down increased happiness.

This week, I made a concerned effort to reach out to a person who I had not expressed gratitude to for a long time. Like Martin and Tracy's experiment, I pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote a letter of gratitude to someone who I respected and had made an impact in my life. After that, I took out my cellphone and called that person to read the letter to him. I have to admit, it was cheesy, but at the end of it all we were both laughing. Though we did not measure our happiness beforehand, I do believe we were happier after because of the semi-experiment. 
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