Most people I know and coach want to be happier. Often there’s something blocking the happiness they seek. One of the biggest obstacles is a concept called the “hedonic treadmill.” It’s a term coined in positive psychology, which suggests that people have a happiness baseline that they keep returning to. When positive events occur — you win the lottery, buy a new house, get promoted or start a great relationship — your level of happiness increases. But the lift is temporary, usually lasting for about three months. Eventually you adapt to the situation and sink back to your old level of happiness, which keeps you on this treadmill of feeling happy for a short period of time and then going back to your old baseline, either feeling neutral or unhappy. This is one major reason that so many of the women I coach at midlife remain stuck, unable to experience higher levels of happiness, passion and joy.
You can get off the treadmill and maintain a higher level of happiness. There are numerous ways to raise your level (Click here for details). One of the most powerful is to practice appreciation and gratitude. It’s a positive mind habit that can completely shift your attitude and perspective resulting in an overall boost to your wellbeing. Gratitude is the antidote for anger and worry and that also can completely transform your heart.
The word “appreciate” has two meanings: Being grateful and to increase in value. Research shows that that when you appreciate the good, the good things in life appreciate. And when you appreciate those around you relationships improve.
Appreciation can be challenging, because often we’re so focused on where we’re heading that we don’t take the time to appreciate where we are right now. There’s also tendency to take things for granted rather than value all of the good things in our lives — our health, those we love, the abundance that is all around us and just the fact that we are alive. Often we don’t fully appreciate how good our lives are until something goes wrong —we become ill, lose our job or break-up with someone we once loved.
That’s unfortunate, because taking time to appreciate and be grateful for things NOW, both ordinary and profound, has been shown to:
- Increase levels of wellbeing and positive emotions
- Boost happiness, determination, energy and optimism
- Increase generosity
- Improve sleep
- Improve relationships
- Reduce the risk of stress and depression
- Create a stronger, healthier heart
- Improve the immune system
- Make it more likely that you’ll exercise more
- Reduce symptoms of illness
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to hone your appreciation skills. Here are some suggestions:
- Count your blessings
Use your 10 fingers to list one thing you are grateful for per finger on your hand.
Keep a gratitude journal and write down all the people, places and things you are grateful for and appreciate. Aim to write about at least three things you are grateful for each day. Try completing sentences that begin with phrases like: “I’m blessed or feel fortunate because…” “I’m grateful for… or I’m happy because…” If you are struggling with a relationship or situation in your life try to write about at least one thing you appreciate about the person or situation you’re struggling with.
- Write a letter
Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life or supported you. You can also tell the person why and how they have helped you. This is a win-win because doing so will help to raise their level of happiness and wellbeing.
- Be mindful.
Notice what is going on around you and pay attention to all the good happening in the present moment. Savor your food. Enjoy feeling the sun on your face. Embrace those you love and enjoy the deep connection that comes when you hug. Focus on the people you are with. Pay attention to and listen to them with an open heart.
- Say thank you, often
When someone does something positive, no mater how large or small the act, let her or him know that you appreciate the good job she/he is doing.
- Stop complaining, criticizing and judging
It’s hard to be grateful and appreciate the good when you are complaining, criticizing (others and yourself) and judging. So take control of your thoughts. Challenge yourself to stop complaining, criticizing and judging for 21 days and see what happens.
Need motivation and accountability? Commit to at least one of these activities and share it in the comments box below. I will e-mail you in 2 weeks to see how you are doing
Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. – Voltaire