Committing to Happiness with an Attitude of Gratitude

It’s 6pm on a bitter cold Friday night in the middle of a New York City winter. Under any other circumstances, I might not abandon the comfort of my apartment and the warming aura of my space heater, but this Friday night is different. I am scrambling with excitement to catch the next 6 train departing Grand Central, headed to an event at the 92nd Street Y called “Crazy Sexy Miracles” hosted by Gabrielle Bernstein and Kris Carr.

Fast forward one long, reflective week and a half later: I’m still stuck on one phrase that Gabrielle mentioned toward the end of her lecture. She remarked, quite simply, that choosing to commit to joy drastically increases your chance of success. Looking at it now, typed out in plain text, the statement doesn't appear too radical. But in practice, how many of us consciously choose to commit to joy? How many of us wake up every day with the intention to behave in a way that elevates our level of happiness?

Don't answer that. Just internalize it. Sit with the idea of committing yourself to joy. It sounds nice, right? Rest assured - it doesn't have to just be a pleasant thought. You can choose to lead a life of happiness and, in turn, a life of many successes, by making a simple shift in your day-to-day perspective. You can commit to joy by resolving to see all the good in your life and to honor that presence of goodness by giving appropriate thanks. It is, in truth, this attitude of gratitude that allows us to feel more fulfilled as human beings, to be more connected to others and ourselves and to experience an otherwise ordinary life as something extraordinary - maybe even somewhat of a miracle.

If you don’t trust me, consider taking this advice from someone far wiser: 

To clarify: Just because you choose to see the miracles in your life does not belittle or refute the difficulties, disappointments, doubts and / or uncertainties that you may face. Rather, gratitude practice can be a surprisingly effective countermeasure to these hurdles. Giving thanks permits the mind to access the joy and awe of this world and to greet life’s challenges with an open, accepting heart.

While much of this reflection comes after my Crazy Sexy Miracles experience and the contemplation of gratitude’s role in my own life, the benefits of gratitude being expressed here are not conjecture. These ideas are backed by the research of professionals who have investigated exactly how the benefits of gratitude expression manifest in our human experiences. For example, the experts over at Plasticity Labs have noted that:

Gratitude is linked to life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, hope, more positive emotion and less negative emotion. Grateful people have been found to have better moods, feel more support from others, and give more support to others. Grateful people are also less likely to experience stress and depression.

Besides the research professionals, companies are also proving the benefits of gratitude right within their own workspaces. According to Laszlo Block, SVP of People Operations at Google, “Google’s People Operations Analytics team recently found that being grateful -- and expressing it -- can be the secret weapon to workplace happiness and to warding off the malaise that can come with routine.”

It’s pretty fantastic to think that expressing your appreciation at work could actually enhance your experience on the job. Unfortunately, the majority of workplaces don’t actively encourage or promote a culture of gratitude. The number of employees who take the time to stop and give thanks for the things they appreciate at the office are few and far between. The subject of appreciation doesn't have to be monumental or grandiose; it can be as simple as expressing thanks for an assignment turned in early, for a pantry full of snacks and coffee, or for the reliable assistance of a colleague or boss.

As frequently as these opportunities for appreciation may come up at work, they are not so frequently acted upon. Plasticity Labs has cited that, “only 30% of employees thank a co-worker multiple times a week and only 20% thank their boss several times a week. Shockingly, 29% never thank a co-worker and 35% of employees never thank their boss.” Imagine the environment we could cultivate if we could change these statistics. All it takes is a shift in perspective - a willingness to look for the good and the small but powerful gesture of honoring that good in yourself, your coworkers or any other deserving party.

So where am I going with all of this? I want to offer you the same challenge that I offer myself: to commit to a life of gratitude at home, at work, and anywhere else that the opportunity may present itself. I want to challenge you to feel more satisfied in your professional role by making an effort to notice and express your appreciation at the office. I want to challenge you to feel less stress, to feel more supported by yourself, others and the universe, by making note of three small things each day that you are thankful for. And I want to challenge you to view your life as though everything is a miracle, committing to a path of joy and, ultimately, radically increasing your chance of success - in whatever form you choose to measure it.

With love,

Ashley