My Unexpectedly Grateful Life
Negativity is easy. Happiness is a learned choice.
When my book The Gratitude Diaries first came out, one of the biggest newspapers in London ran a long article that declared me the “Glossy High Priestess of the Gratitude Cult.”
I found it amusingly English—a compliment larded with snark—and I was particularly delighted at being called “glossy.”
Apparently, the Frizz-Ease serum that I have used on my hair every morning for the last dozen years has paid off.
While I haven’t been grateful for quite as long as I’ve been battling frizz, gratitude has become a part of both my professional identity and my life. With the book a New York Times bestseller, I was asked to give talks on gratitude around the country.
After I gave the keynote address at a women’s leadership conference, a young woman came over and explained that she had been trying to keep a gratitude journal but gave up.
“Don’t you ever get tired of being grateful and just want to complain?” she asked.
I laughed—but I also knew what she meant. Psychologists have shown over and over again that gratitude is a key to well-being and in a national survey I oversaw, some 95 percent of people said that grateful people are happier.
But somehow we manage to turn things that should make us happy into just another tedious chore.
So I told the young woman that if she didn’t like keeping a gratitude journal, maybe she could just take a photo of something once a day that made her happy. Or take the two minutes when she was brushing her teeth at night to think about positive things that had happened during the day.
The real gift of gratitude is how it allows you to reframe any situation to see the positive. Instead of feeling buffeted by events, you realize that you can take control and change how you feel. Even bad events can be flipped around so you see the bright side.
The other day I was walking through a cold and snowy and crowded New York City and I slipped and fell. Two people rushed to help me up and I told them I was fine. But as I continued on, I realized I had lost my hat and I could feel a bruise started to swell at my knee. What an awful day!
But then I quite literally stopped myself. I stood on the corner for a moment and decided to see my situation differently. Yes, I had fallen but I was okay. I was heading to my pretty apartment in the city where I wanted to be. I was grateful to the people who had stopped to help.
And suddenly I was smiling.
Because in truth it feels a lot better to be grateful than to complain. And you don’t have to be the High Priestess of anything to use gratitude to make your life better.
Janice Kaplan’ s new book How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life will be published by Dutton in March.
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