Happiness and Gratitude

I’m starting another Ten Things of Thankful post with some reservations. I haven’t written any posts on this blog since last week’s TToT, and I don’t want it to become nothing but a thankful blog. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not my intention for this blog. I mainly want to write posts about parenting and self-development. Still, gratitude is part of that, and besides I want to join in the hop.   November is beginning to look busy for me so this could well become the Thankful blog for a month. I think Lizzi, our Ten Things of Thankful inventor and co-host has even declared November “NaNoGraMo,” which stands for National November Gratitude Month or something similar. The plan is to write a gratitude post each day. Since I have decided to take part in NaNoWriMo and write the first draft of a new novel in November, my gratitude posts will probably remain those for the weekend blog hop. Today I want to write a slightly different post, one about the way gratitude can affect us and others. I feel thankful for that!

Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at The University of California, researched the effects of gratitude. His book, Thanks, was published in 2006 and contains his findings. The results are now fairly well known – feeling gratitude makes you happier. Now, the cynics among us could think, “Yeah, well it’s pretty obvious that happy people probably find it easy to be grateful. It’s not something you can just make yourself feel, I can’t help how I am. Besides, those happy-clappy thankfullers probably have plenty to be grateful for.”

If that’s what you think, take a look at this video. Watch it right to the end. If you really don’t have time to do that, watch the beginning and then skip to 6.10 and listen to what the presenter has to say. You’ll be thankful you did!

I admit, the first time I watched this video, I thought that it was probably all done by actors and therefore fake. But the next video explains that the participants weren’t actors after all.

 

So now you’ve watched the videos,  you know that the least-happy person felt the biggest change after expressing gratitude. I’ve read of the same results elsewhere. Gratitude can’t be faked, and I have a feeling that trying to be grateful to try to feel happier isn’t likely to have a positive effect – but allowing yourself to remember things you genuinely feel grateful for – there’s no guarantee, but there’s a good chance it will make you happier. I’m thankful for that.

I was interested that Emmons’s book starts with a story about an accident that happened to the famous writer, Stephen King . He experienced multiple fractures, and yet when asked how he felt about coming so close to death, his reply was that he felt gratitude. But a quick investigation on the internet suggests his gratitude didn’t last. He’s also quoted as being less than pleased that the driver who hit him wasn’t sentenced to time in jail. Still, I guess that is the nature of gratitude: it comes and goes. Yet the more we genuinely feel it, the more we genuinely experience a sense of peace. At least, that’s my experience. Something I also noticed about those videos earlier is that it wasn’t just the people expressing gratitude that seemed happier – the people who filmed them seemed pretty joyful about the experiment too.  I’ve also noticed this in my life: when people are grateful it has a rub-off effect on others around them. Today I’m going to share a few moments like this. I’m grateful for them.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts about my father won’t be too surprised to learn he was a great example of this. Like Stephen King he was once in a horrific accident. Unlike Stephen King’s accident, nobody was at fault. The day after the accident I spoke to my father on the phone and asked how he was. His reply has remained firmly in my memory ever since. He said, “Thankful to still be here.” And unlike King, he never expressed any other feeling about that accident.

Four and a half years before he died, my father was diagnosed with myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. Shortly afterwards, I learned that a friend of mine also had the same condition. She lived in the city where my father had to go for treatment and so on one of of his trips I introduced them to each other. As they sat discussing their ups and downs, I was awed to hear them both describe how lucky they were. My Dad thought himself lucky because he hadn’t had the infections that often came with myeloma – even though his back was bent because of collapsed vertebrae. My friend thought herself lucky because although she had the infections, she didn’t have the damaged bones. Both these lovely people are now gone, but the memory of that time still fills me with awe. This is the power of gratitude.

Once, I had the wonderful experience of realising my gratitude had a profound effect on someone else. When our elder daughter was six or seven, she and I were at traffic lights waiting to cross a road. I looked down at  her and felt a massive surge of love, gratitude and joy for her. We hugged. Then I noticed a man standing nearby who was looking at us and beaming. I felt awed by that too. And grateful – for my daughter and that our joy could affect a stranger.

The Ten Things of Thankful has this same effect. As we write our own and read each others’ posts we are undoubtedly spreading love. To join in the hop, just click the button below.

Ten Things of Thankful

 

Comments

  1. I feel comfortable saying that your blog need not become a ‘thankful blog’, as a result of writing this type of Post. In the case of my own blog, which I have heard others refer to as a niche blog*, I enjoy participating each week here for the chance to take a break from my ‘normal’ Posts.

    The variety of the styles, viewpoints, expressions and opinion to be found on any given Sunday at the TToT should assure you that you can participate here without risk of forfeiting any range of expression in (the development) of your blog.

    Plus! (…and don’t tell anyone I told you, but there is a Secret Book of Rules with this blgohop..or is that ‘the Book of Secret Rules’…yeah, that’s it) and one of the Rules implies that everyone who participates in the spirit of the bloghop-that-Lizzi-built is totally tolerated in any… *forays* from the more conventional 1-10 List format.

    so, good to see you here again!

    *and I prefer to hear that as a positive description

  2. Author

    Hi Clark, I think I strayed from the 1 – 10 format several posts ago and haven’t found my way back! I don’t think I even counted to ten for the last few. But I’m pretty sure you are right and Lizzi won’t be throwing me off the hop! 🙂 And I agree about the variety fo expressions in the hop.

    My point was just that far from having these posts as a break from my “normal” posts, these are fast becoming the normal ones for this blog. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I do write these posts the way I do partly because it fits the ethos of the blog. So I’m happy!

    Thanks for your considered comment.

  3. I saw this research in another format… I totally buy it and I don’t subscribe to much… This was really well put together , thanks… no worries about your blog…as clark says the hop is open to anything… but I think he is delusional about the secret rule book…don’t tell him I said so…

    Oh, hey, Clark… good to see you!

    1. Author

      Hi Zoe, the research findings make sense to me too! Ha, so Clark is delusional about the secret rule book, that’s a relief! 🙂 And of course I won’t tell! 😀

  4. I guarantee you, I will never throw you off the hop (unless you start including un-thankfulness-related, sponsored posts about Argos, or something) and when you bring such glorious content as this, I can safely say that I am absolutely happy to welcome you back every single time you feel like participating.

    That first video was stunningly amazing. I watched the entire thing. It’s gorgeous.

    And I love the thoughts around the rest. Truly compelling stuff.

    I don’t think that gratitude CAN be felt with the intention of trying to make oneself happier, but that perhaps an increase in happiness is a side-effect of true thankfulness and recognition of the Good in one’s life.

    1. Author

      Whew, Lizzi, that’s a relief! 😀 And thank you for your kind words about this post! Even if I can’t take credit for much of it! That video is amazing, isn’t it? Glad you watched it, because it’s so worthwhile.

      And I totally agree with your last paragraph.

    1. Author

      Dyanne, you are so right. I’m guessing that with you having gone through cancer you have also had similar moments to those of my dad and friend. So sending love to you on your healing path.

  5. Thanks for posting the videos! I had seen them recently, but for some reason couldn’t figure out how to get them to post to my blog. I’ve posted videos before, and I don’t remember what the issue was this time. In any case, I’m glad you were able to share them; there is something contagious about thankfulness.

    1. Author

      Kristi, I actually grabbed the videos a while ago and then wrote this post much later, but I’m pretty sure the first one was on Upworthy, so what I did was clicked to view it on YouTube and then I could upload it from there. (Just in case you ever want to get it or a different one!)
      Thanks for your comment.

  6. I have seen it time and time again. Gratefulness is as contagious as a yawn. You notice someone doing it, and before you know it, so are you.
    What a beautiful example your father set for you and everyone who heard him.
    Good luck with your November of writing!

    1. Author

      Christine, yes, my dad was a great example in gratitude – and my friend who actually was far happier with cancer than she was years before. She was determined to make the most of the time she had left.

      And I love your comment about gratefulness being contagious!

  7. Oh, Yvonne, what a cool post. I love finding out about the “science of happiness.”
    Your father – I still think him – sounds like he was incredible. 🙂
    The last part melted my heart and made me smile. 🙂 HUGS!
    Just wanted to mention: stay tuned for an updated YeRoWriteO post. I had an unexpected positive response, so I’m going to tweak details (like maybe…a newsletter?) hehe. I hope you’re well! xo

  8. Author

    Hi Cyndi, glad you enjoyed this. My father was incredible, and he wasn’t always that way – he became more and more open, amazing, loving as he grew older. It was a joy to witness, really and I am thrilled to know that you still think of him. So lovely to think that his openness can even touch people he never met.
    And definitely I will stay tuned for YeRo! Great that you got a positive response.
    Thanks for your comment.

I love getting comments and reply to every one. Tell the world (and me) what you think!