In last week’s comments (or somewhere), I referenced this video by Soul Pancake, in which researchers concluded that experiencing and expressing gratitude has the ability to increase our happiness. The less happy we are (according to some empirical measure of happiness I’d really like to see), the more thinking about somebody we owe a lot to, and expressing a sense of appreciation for that person, will give us a boost.
The methodology was simple:
1) Give the subject a happiness test (and don’t tell them what it is).
2) Ask the subject to talk about, then write about, somebody who has really made a positive difference in their lives.
4) Measure the subject’s happiness again (again, unbeknownst to the subject).
The video is short, touching, and has an encouraging message. I’m reminded of the Twelve-Step slogan, “You have to have the attitude of gratitude!” that so many people find useful. And yet, I think the researchers missed the point. (Or maybe they packaged it for more effective marketing?)
It isn’t gratitude that makes us happier, it’s proof that we’re loved. The people to whom the subjects were indebted loved them–whether it’s the love of a teacher for a struggling student, the love between sisters, the love of a grandma for her grandson. Writing about who loves ya and then telling that person how much their love has meant will of course leave us feeling more supported, more worthy, more courageous, and…. happier.
And, I’m struck by a connection: Just as anger often sits on top of fear, loneliness, bewilderment, powerlessness, and other more complicated negative emotions, gratitude is probably a fig leaf providing a modest presentation for more intimate positive emotions–love, vulnerability, wonderment, empowerment. I will think on this connection, and probably use it in a book.
So your mission, folks, should you decide to accept it, is to tell somebody you love them. Tell the cat, tell the pastor, tell your kids, tell YOURSELF. Dress it up as a compliment to somebody’s tie, sneak it in as appreciation for a plate of cookies, or be really stealthy about it, and listen to somebody’s recounting of their bad day. Ruling the world isn’t complicated. It happens one “I love you,” at a time.
To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card. Christmas is coming, and we’ve been good!