behavior · brain · emotion · happiness · mental health

How being grateful for the little things makes a big difference

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...
Being thankful for the little everyday things, like just being able to eat, is better for you psychologically over the long haul. Image via Wikipedia

I received this newsletter post from financial advice blog LearnVest. It provided some interesting insight into another reason why practicing how to be grateful in itty-bitty ways (see my earlier post) is actually better for you in the long run.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratefulness and what really makes us happy. This has been a truly happy year for me personally—the LearnVest audience has grown 310%, our company is celebrating its two-year anniversary, our team has tripled in size, and, to top it all off, I got engaged last month to the best guy I know.

All of this has reminded me of the “happiness lab” I worked at back in college, where I witnessed one psych study that changed my life:

When given the hypothetical choice between lots of big wins in a short amount of time (like all of your dreams coming true in a week) and one consistent thing they already liked, guaranteed forever (like a warm cup of coffee every morning), most people chose the big wins: a bigger house, a fancy car, a promotion, winning the lottery.

But the lab’s researchers found that the coffee-every-day-forever approach really makes people happier when push comes to shove. Why?

We say we want a bigger house, but then we have to maintain it. We say we want a promotion, but it comes with more stress and longer hours. Meanwhile, one reliable, comforting constant in our lives—like a soothing cup of coffee every day—can make us feel great. In general, the big things we strive for don’t necessarily make us happier.

This study proves scientifically what many of us have always known: Money can’t buy happiness.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to think about what really makes you happy. Is it writing? Taking pictures? Giving back to the community? I have a feeling you’ll find that many of the best things in your life don’t cost a thing, or are well within your reach right now.

I hope you can find the laughter and the joy in every situation. May this year and every year bring you a lot to be thankful for.

Toward a richer life,

Follow @alexavontobel

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