In a world where we have the best of everything at our fingertips, many of us live in a constant state of wanting more—whether it’s the newest iPhone, more money, or more clothes, we are always looking for the next best thing. The sad truth is that despite having so much, many people spend their time chasing material possessions, looking to fill the void in their heart (been there, done that) and I can tell you it will never work. There will never be enough superficial things that will fill the void.
The problem is that we’re looking at what everyone else has, thinking they have something better. As the saying goes, “the grass looks greener on the other side,” but what happens when we get what we want? We’re on to the next thing before we’ve had a moment to enjoy it. We’re on this chase so often it eventually becomes habitual and our lives move so quickly we can’t recall why we’re chasing it to begin with. We become accustomed to comparing ourselves to everyone else so we forget who we are and what our truth is.
The bottom line is there’s always going to be someone smarter, prettier, thinner, richer—so comparing ourselves to others is a recipe for misery.
Why have we become so consumed to keeping up with the Joneses? Studies show that great wealth in itself doesn’t necessarily mean a person is happier. “People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life,” writes James A. Roberts of Baylor University in a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.
The key to increasing happiness, according to the research, is learning to appreciate what you have. Grateful people have higher self-esteem, cope better with difficult situations, are less stressed, and are more satisfied with their relationships overall.
So how can we make gratitude a daily habit? Here are a few tools for thankfulness used by psychologists:
1. A gratitude journal
When you write down your positive experiences, you feel thankful more often and become better at appreciating what’s good in your life.
2. Thank you notes
A hand-written note is one of the most timeless ways to express your gratitude. It could be a person you’ve never thanked or someone special in your life for whom you wish to show appreciation. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion-just do it.
3. Giving to others
A random act of kindness goes a long way. Find a cause you care about or a group in your community that needs volunteers. Giving to others is one of the most powerful ways not only to cultivate gratitude, but happiness as well.
Do you practice gratitude on a daily basis? What are you most grateful for in your life?
Image Credit: Kristin Vogel