The Real Secret to Happiness

“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude” – Steve Maraboli

I used to think that happiness was something that happened after I got the things that I wanted.   Happiness, to me, was the “end goal”.  Whatever I was working for -getting into college, landing my dream job, getting enough money to buy the clothes I wanted- was always the next step to finally being “there” and happy.

But after years of focusing solely on the outcome of my actions and not finding the happiness I was looking for, I realized that until I could truly appreciate what I already have in my life getting and achieving more wasn’t going to offer me any additional happiness whatsoever.

This shift happened at a time in my life when I was fresh out of college, earning a $800/month in my new job and on food stamps when I decided to start being thankful for what I had instead of what wallowing in what I didn’t have.  Even though looking back at that stage in my life I realize that I didn’t have a lot (very little in fact) – I was happy.  How is that possible?  True happiness for me started the moment that I started writing down things that I was grateful that I DID have in my life regardless of what I didn’t have.

I remember feeling skeptical that simply writing down things that I was thankful for before I went to bed would make me a happier person, but it did.  And then some.  Every night before I went to bed, I would take 5 minutes and list out the things that I was grateful for in my journal.  Almost immediately, I was able to start seeing more things in my life that were going well instead of viewing everything as a disaster.  Even though I was going through a rough patch, I still had more things to be grateful for than not.  It’s almost miraculous that something so simple can be so profound and empowering.

To help you discover your own happiness that is already within you, here are 3 tips to get you started as you begin your gratitude journal:

1. Develop the art of positive thinking.

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

2. Drop the comparison of others.

My favorite quote to sum this up: “comparison is the thief of joy”. Drop the comparison and watch your happiness soar.

3. Find joy in the little things.

It can be as small as taking 10 minute to savor your cup of coffee in the morning, taking your dog for a walk or making dinner for your loved ones. Life is really one big series of the small, little moments. Enjoy them.

The first few times writing down things you’re grateful for can prove to be a little difficult at first.  It might be something completely out of your comfort zone, but remember (like all things) the first step is always the hardest.  Start slow and be patient with yourself.  The more you practice, the more you are developing your ability to think more positive.  Let go of your comparison of yourself to others.  You will soon discover yourself finding joy in the little things- the birds chirping in the early morning, the gorgeous sunset, your ability to see and read and so much more. Soon enough you won’t be able to stop seeing all of the things that are going well throughout your day as a result of writing them down at night.

How could (or does) a gratitude journal bring you happiness in your own life?

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