in THINK | 02 Nov 2017

Living a Happier Life with Gratitude


Thanksgiving. Something to be thankful for by itself. In only a few countries around the world this is a public holiday, up there between Halloween and Christmas. Here in the Netherlands, we don’t have a national day where we traditionally think of the ways we are blessed and celebrate them. What a treat! We get a scent of something big here. Let’s rise to the occasion and play with gratitude a little.

In life, we are used to chasing our goals. It starts from a very early age on, at school. Your drive is something that will get you somewhere, and that tendency seems to continue the further you go. We’re not there yet, but once we’re there, things will be better. We want to become fitter, we want to earn more money, we want more likes. It's good to be ambitious and follow your dreams. But be careful when those ambitions don't become a checklist  of things that in your mind aren’t enough.

It's a slippery slope. Once you achieve those life, squad, relationship goals, you are expecting some kind of uplifting release. Question is how long does that feeling last, when is enough enough? Also, what about the goals that don’t get ticked of of your list? Would that feel like a failure? Looks like quite a dysfunctional system, but there seems to be a way to hack it. Has anyone ever given you the advice to appreciate what you already have instead of longing for what you don’t have? Sometimes the most successful people are the most unhappy, because they are not being grateful for what they have. The most unfortunate can be the happiest people in the world, just by being grateful. It is not that when you are happy, you automatically are  grateful. It is that when you are grateful, that you become happy.

When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough, not out of scarcity. Especially when practised consistently, gratefulness is said to leave you leading a healthier and happier life. Scientifically, it is proven to have a wide range of positive effects on your mental, physical and emotional health. To list a few, an attitude of grattitude;

- Reduces stress and anxiety

- Makes you take better care of your health (that means more exercise, more energy, better sleep, even less physical pain)

- Increases self-esteem, less social comparison

- Softens unpleasant emotions and even symptoms of depression


David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, meditates and writes on "the gentle power" of gratefulness. He helps us answer the question on how we can live gratefully. It is to experience, and to become aware, that every moment is a given moment. It’s a gift! You haven’t bought it or earned it. It is most valuable, this moment full of opportunity. Even when we miss it, we can catch the moment right after. When we are confronted with the difficulty, we can rise to it by learning from it. Those who fail, get another opportunity. That is the wonderful richness of life.”

Back to thanksgiving. We would all love to spend a whole day of being thankful. Since maybe you don’t celebrate this day officially, how about we take it to another level. Make it more consistent. If we take those twentyfour hours that Thanksgiving lasts and spread them over the whole 365 days of the year, it would come to more or less four minutes per day. Four minutes of being grateful can go a long way. Right after you wake up, meditating on things you are grateful for. You can write them down even. Solidify it. Count your blessings. It’ll be like appreciating your ability to walk befóre you sprain your ankle. Apparently, this is a lifehack you are going to reap a very sweet harvest of.