How to be happy in 2017

A couple of days ago I was listing to a TED podcast that was all about happiness. What really resonated with me was the relationship between gratitude and happiness.

I, like many others apparently, thought that the happier a person is the more grateful they become. It’s actually just the opposite. What is turning up now is that the people who express the most gratitude are the happiest and not the other way around. This is so much the case that it can be said that gratitude causes/creates happiness.

The more I thought about it the more it made sense to me. I don’t think that I have ever been truly grateful for something while simultaneously feeling sad or upset. It’s even hard for me to imagine a truly grateful person NOT feeling happy. Because of all this I am going to make 2017 a year of gratitude. Not just feeling grateful but actually expressing my gratitude because gratitude that’s not expressed is basically the same as ingratitude.

Here’s how I plan to do this:

  • I plan to send out 200 handwritten thank you notes this year. I want to hand deliver as many as possible because that seems like more fun and saves me money on stamps!
  • I plan to express gratitude more regularly to strangers. Like the waitress, cashier, and basically anyone who serves me.
  • I am going to continue to write positive Google reviews.

By doing these things, I think it’s safe to say that 2017 will be my happiest year yet!

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What do you say?

One of the very best things my mom taught me was gratitude. She taught what it is and how to express it. Anytime someone said or did something worthy of gratitude I would hear “What do you say?” from my mom. The answer to that question was always a smile and “Thank You” to whoever. I remember many times being so annoyed when I heard this question because I heard it SO many times. A big chunk of the time my smile was forced and my “thank you” was insincere. Looking back now I am truly grateful for this practice. My mom constantly forced me into noticing when my gratitude was required and appropriate. No joke, even now I sometimes hear in my head “what do you say?” after someone does something for me.

Because of this great parenting, I find it natural to express gratitude but I know that this is not always the case for everyone. Some might find it awkward or weird or whatever. Since I know that some of you out there feel like this I thought I would share an easy way to get into the habit of expressing gratitude. Here it is:

Regularly write 5-star Google reviews.

This might seem odd but I started doing it when I was pleased with how I was served and I began to feel great about myself in the most positive way. A specific, positive, 5-star review is a modern way to send a thank you note. When I started doing this regularly I caught myself going into restaurants, stores, and other public places with an entirely different attitude. Instead of my default critical crankiness I started looking for reasons to be satisfied and grateful. Rather than waiting to be disappointed, I am starting to be more internal about being a good finder. Zig Ziglar used to say “Some people really do find fault like there’s some kind of reward for it.”  This was (and sometimes is) me. But that simple choice of deciding to write a 5 star review is helping me become a good finder.

Try it. It’s so easy. Take a minute right now and think of a business you frequent and someone you know at this place who serves you well. Google the business and write a 5 star positive review.

Be specific.

Name names.

Say thank you.

You never know, you might become a good finder in other areas of your life. Will you try it? Come on now, what do you say?

Spiritual Self Talk

One of the most valuable and helpful things I learned in 2016 was the value of positive productive self talk. Some of you might be thinking “I don’t talk to myself.” If that’s you, you just did. Everyone carries on some kind of internal dialogue throughout the day. I know for me, it used to be primarily negative. I would say things to and about myself that I would NEVER say about anyone else. I wouldn’t even let someone say those things about me. But there I go saying them about myself. Think about it for a sec. Would you let someone say to you the things that you say about yourself?

I made it a daily practice of mine to say positive things about myself out loud in front of a mirror at least once per day. This is still a weird and awkward thing to do but it has made profound differences in the way I behave throughout the day. For instance, there have been several times where I felt like not going the extra mile in my work and instead doing just a good job. But what came into my head was the words that I had been telling myself. I have convinced myself that I am a hard worker and that I do go the extra mile. Once my mind was convinced, my actions followed suit. Another time I remember I was about to get furious at ANOTHER terrible Arizona driver but I distinctly thought “I used to be that person, but I’m not anymore. Calm yourself.” This is because I have been regularly convincing myself that I’m not someone who reacts in anger anymore.

This is an especially important practice for Christians. I know that it helps us to become more Christlike through our co-operation with the Holy Spirit to conform us more and more into His likeness. Here’s a good place to start:

Stand alone in front of a mirror and say the following based from Galatians 5:22-23:

I (input your name here) am a loving, joyful, peaceful and peace bringing, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled person.

This will take you less than 30 seconds. It’s so easy. But what if you know that you are definitely NOT self-controlled or kind or any of the above qualities? Wouldn’t that be lying? Nope, and here’s why: Every Christian is indwelt with the Holy Spirit at the moment of their conversion (Acts 2:38). The above qualities are all listed by Paul as fruits of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it seems to follow that as a Christian you have at the very least the seeds of all of these qualities. With the Holy Spirit’s help and your hard work, all of these qualities will be manifested in you.

So do it for a week. It will make a difference. Once you convince yourself that because of God’s work in your life that you really do have all of these qualities, you will start to act like you do.

PS- here’s a link to get the self-talk protocol that I use- it’s more detailed and takes longer but it’s legit.