(This is a three part mini-series on happiness. See the full series here: https://jineralknowledge.com/tag/arkhappyrecipe/?order=asc)
Dr Tony Fernando, psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Auckland, talks about three factors that appear to be key to living a happy, content life. They are gratitude, mindfulness and compassion.
Gratitude can be summarised by a quote by Rabbi Hyman Schachtel:
“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have”.
We live in a society that drives us to want more – to become wealthier, more respected and more successful. Our never-ending desires are a great source of unhappiness. Gratitude is the attempt to fight this natural greed. This makes it difficult for us to become grateful: how can we be grateful when we feel miserable?
The key to gratitude is changing your perspective. A large part of our misery come from looking at the big picture. Houses are too expensive. My friends are all getting married but I am still single. I find my job dissatisfying. We sometimes lack the ability to see the forest for the trees; our idea of happiness are grand moments of success or excitement. Instead, perhaps we should be looking at the simple pleasures of life. Think of the little moments that made you smile today: meeting a friend for brunch, seeing a child play with a puppy, drinking a delicious milkshake, basking under the warm sunlight.
To become more grateful, one could try writing a gratitude diary. Every day, write down three (or even just one if it is too hard) things you were grateful that day. This trains you into actively thinking about simple pleasures. It may take a few weeks, but you will notice yourself becoming more aware of the little moments of happiness that fill your day that you took for granted. Eventually, you will reach a point where you are passively grateful throughout every day without having to think about it all times.
Recording a gratitude diary is one of the quickest and simplest ways to increase your happiness, with most people seeing noticeable positive effects within 1-2 months. The best part is that you leave a permanent record that you can look back on to realise how happy your life actually is when you see the forest for the trees.