Let me say "Hey Y'all" to eveyone visiting from my devotion published today. Glad you stopped by.
The research I referenced in the devotion comes out of an academic journal. However, if you'd like to read more about it, follow this link. I'm also reading a research-based book called The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. It's not a Christian book - a group of faculty from the university I teach at is reading it in a book club - but it's not a typical "self-help" book either. The well credentialed author focuses on the scientific study of happiness. I've found it's findings to be consistent with what God's Word teaches. Plus, I'm finding it quite interesting!
For instance, did you know that we each have a genetically determined set-point for happiness? It represents 50% of what determines our general level of happiness. It varies from person to person and is the level we'll tend to return to over and over, even after major setbacks or major triumphs.
Even more fascinating is the fact that our circumstances only represent 10% of what determines our level of happiness. How often have we assumed we'd be happier if we could get a better job or a better spouse; a prettier body or a prettier house? Research shows while these things can provide a temporary happy-boost, even those who win the lottery or get total body makeovers return to their happiness set point ... often within a year or so. All life circumstances put together only account for about 10% in how happy we are. Is that as eye-opening to you as it is to me?
But that still leaves 40% of our level of happiness determined by something other than our genetics and our circumstances. Guess what it's determined by? Our thoughts and behavior. And there are several intentional behaviors we can do to boost this 40%. One of them is cultivating gratitude.
Grateful people are more likely to help others, and to build social bonds. They are better at coping with stress and trauma. Grateful people tend to have more positive self-awareness and are less likely to compare themselves to others. And, it turns out, gratitude has the power to dissolve negative feelings like anger, jealousy, fear and defensiveness. All these things result in greater daily feelings of happiness.
Gratitude journaling is a great way to get intentional about developing a mind set on gratefulness. Journaling (about once a week on average) has been reliably shown to boost happiness in repeated research studies. (Particularly for those who enjoy reading and/or writing.)
However, if you count your blessings in a journal every day in the exact same way, you may become bored with it, and it could lose its power. So change it up some weeks. Try calling a friend to tell her what you're thankful for. Try writing a letter of gratitude to someone who has positively impacted your life. Send more heart-felt thank you cards. Buy a gift, create a piece of art, or cook for someone as a way to express your gratitude for them. Giving is a great expression of gratitude. Just don't make it so hard or so involved to pull off that you won't do it.
A letter of gratitude would be a touching, inexpensive gift this holiday season. And likely to be cherished longer than any trinket you could buy. Or maybe you could just purchase them a copy of the happiness book and a blank journal. Just a thought for all of you uninterested in braving the after-Thanksgiving sales crowds. :)
Meanwhile, feel free to start chronicling your gratitude in the comments on this post. What are you thankful for today?