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The secret to being happier is not what you think

(Photo source: Dollar Photo Club)
Over Christmas I met with one of my longtime mentors, Erik Dixon, and he said something so profound that I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Erik has been one of the biggest influences in my life since I was 16. He would show such consistent and radical care about me that it helped take me out of some dark teenage holes that I was falling into.

And he’s still dropping insight-bombs on me, like the one he did over coffee about a concept that was the secret to being more productive, being less sick, getting a better night’s rest, experiencing less stress and anxiety — basically a range of life-changing benefits that would make a super-drug blush with envy (without the long list of side-effects that make you squirm, to go with it).

Then, I came back from vacation, and lo and behold my 60+ year-old neighbor Mary hits me with the same concept. She told me a story of singing in a choir at a funeral. She described being in a beautiful cathedral in front of a giant organ and becoming so overwhelmed with this concept, the same one Erik just described to me, that I could feel the joy bursting from inside of her.

So what’s this concept that Erik and Mary both subscribe to?

What’s this concept that I’ve been focusing on myself and already starting to feel a profound difference?

What’s the word that can so radically change your life?


The power of gratitude.

Numerous studies have shown the power of gratitude and the range of positive effects.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week — one group focusing on things they were grateful for, one group focusing on things that were bugging them, and the third group with no focus on positive or negative.

The results, as described in Harvard Health Publications, were that after 10 weeks, “those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”

Other studies have shown that bosses who expressed their gratitude to employees saw a 50% increase in making sales calls than those who they didn’t thank.

A study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person, but also felt more comfortable talking about their relationship.

Don’t cherish what you have until it’s ripped away.

When being grateful becomes a way of life you start realizing how much you have to be grateful for.

I know I focus so much on what I’m trying to obtain that I lose sight of what I already have. It’s the old cliche of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

I have written all about " the best years of my life" in my book All Groan Up:Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job, and how I only felt that way once the season was over.

While living in that season, I complained, grumbled, and focused on the shortcomings. When the season was over, then I realized all that I missed.

It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy.

Don’t cherish what you have until it’s ripped away.

If you focus on the good, more good will consistently be revealed.

It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy.

This week, no matter what peak or valley you find yourself in right now, what if you made a focused effort to be grateful?

Stop what you're doing and write down five things you are grateful for. No matter your current mood. Share them in the comments on this article. It doesn’t have to be overly profound.

Now how do you feel? Do you have any specific emotions you feel the strongest right now?

Don’t think you can come up with five things to be grateful for? Well, take a trip to the bathroom. Seriously.

If you have running water, an indoor toilet to sit on, a shower that provides hot water like a magician, and soft cloud-like paper to wipe yourself, you’ve already got a lot to be grateful for.

Paul Angone is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!101 Secrets For Your Twenties, and creator of AllGroanUp.com, a community for those asking "what now?" Follow him on Twitter @PaulAngone. 

This blog originally appeared on AllGroanUp.com and was republished with permission.

(Photo source: Dollar Photo Club)

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