I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now.
One of the great perks of writing a book is that you get to write an Acknowledgments page where you thank everyone who helped you as you were writing your book. Winners of the Academy Award get to give their Acceptance speech, where they thank the most important people in their lives. It's too bad that other professions haven't developed similar practices - it's a wonderful tradition.
Philosophers, religious leaders, and contemporary scientists all agree that GRATITUDE is a key to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy; when you're grateful for what you have, you're not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance--it's harder to feel disappointed with someone when you're feeling grateful toward him or her. Gratitude also connects you to the natural world, because one of the easiest things to feel grateful for is the beauty of nature.
But I find it hard to stay in a grateful frame of mind--I take things for granted, I forget what other people have done for me, I have high expectations. To cure this, I tried keeping a gratitude journal, something recommended by countless happiness experts, but I found it annoying, not helpful. I have a resolution to "Think about how much I love my ordinary day each time I turn on my computer"; that works pretty well. Keeping my one-sentence journal helps me remember to be grateful. My one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is a meditation on gratitude.
I just handed in the second draft of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT book to my editor, and I figured I'd work on the appendix, bibliography, and other back matter while I was waiting for her comments. When I started to write the Acknowledgments, however, I got anxious: I realized that I've been helped by just about everyone I had a conversation with over the past few years. So many people passed along their insights, or gave advice, or said or did something that shed light on happiness. Not to mention my family and friends who give me general support. And all the people I've never actually met, but have "met" through blogging. The more I thought about it, the more names I added.
I haven't figured out how to handle this issue. I'm worried about overlooking someone, but at the same time, it would look ridiculous to thank a million people. But I can't NOT have an Acknowledgements page.
Well, I'll figure something out. As a consequence of doing this, however, I realized that writing your Acknowledgments page (or your Acceptance speech, if you want the more glamorous version) is a great exercise. If you had a chance publicly to thank the people who support and help you, who would be on the list? Can you think of a way to acknowledge them, even if you don't have an official Acknowledgements page and you're not getting an Oscar?
Or have you found other ways to cultivate a grateful spirit?
Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you'd like to take a look at Gretchen Rubin's personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email her at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.