The Power of Gratitude

Lifestyle
“The best way to create an optimistic world view is to practice gratitude on a daily basis.” – Shawn Achor.  I thought this quote was fitting given today’s environment.  For the folks who have not heard of Shawn, he is the CEO of Good Think, where he researches and teaches about positive psychology.  He has one of my favorite talks on Ted.com and it is certainly worth the 12 minutes.  A link to the video can be found here.

 

Now this is not your typical financial planning blog type entry, so bear with me.  It is however a very powerful, affirming action you can take that can drastically change your happiness level.  Isn’t that our ultimate goal as advisors?  To help you achieve the goals you have outlined which lead to your overall happiness?

 

This Ain’t No Mumbo Jumbo

There is actual evidence on the science of gratitude.  Harvard Medical School put out a paper recently quoting multiple studies that showed people who express gratitude are more optimistic and feel better about themselves.  Another paper published by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence concluded that expressing gratitude completes a feeling of connection with other people.  That feeling of connection, of community, is powerful and many argue is one of the basic human needs.

 

The Yale Happiness Class

Hearing about these studies got me thinking about an article I read recently in the Atlantic on the most popular class in the history of Yale called Psychology and the Good Life.  It’s basically the Yale Happiness Class (link here).  One of the themes of the class is to “set aside time to be grateful for what you already have. This may come in the form of a gratitude journal or a period of brief reflection and could be as basic as acknowledging the luxury of taking a hot shower or having a choice about what to eat for dinner. Whatever the ritual is there are benefits to ‘this simple act of pausing to pay attention’.”  In my personal life, I try to do just this.  I do not maintain a journal but try to constantly remind myself how lucky we all are.

 

The author goes on to explain how Olympic bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists because people focus on relative comparisons instead of absolutes.  They are just happy to have made the medal stand as opposed to almost winning gold.  Instead of always wishing you had a nicer car, or a bigger house, try to focus on the positives of what you do have.  The author also talks about the power of buying experiences over things because experiences and the memories they create last much longer, “whereas the second year of owning a fancy car is a lot less exciting than the first”.

 

Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude releases dopamine in your brain, and according to Shawn it does two things:

  1. It makes you happier.
  2. It turns on all the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

 

My challenge to you is to remember to take a moment to thank someone.  Maybe it is someone you have not spoken to in a while.  Maybe it is a colleague, family member, friend, or mentor of yours.  The challenge is to thank someone new every day for a month.  Then you might retrain your brain to see the positive in things and not focus upon the negative or to ignore an opportunity to spread appreciation.  I promise you, if you do this every day for a month, not only will it make their day, but it will also make you feel better.

 

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

About the Author: Alex Perkins

Alex is a Wealth Advisor for WealthPoint Advisors, LLC. After a successful career in management consulting where he helped business executives solve their corporate challenges, he decided to pursue a passion in helping families and individuals on the personal side. Alex now enjoys helping his clients answer their most pressing financial and life questions, through a comprehensive, evidence-based wealth management approach.