How to be Happier

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

The card came in one of those small envelopes that instantly tell you it is something special. On the cover was a painting of a rose in full bloom, drinking in the sunshine behind it, with droplets of morning dew dancing across its petals like tears of joy.

The handwriting was tiny, perfect and flowed from edge to edge, in green ink.

Dear Mr. Westerman,

I did it! You challenged me to figure out what I loved and to find a way to get paid for it. Last month, I took the risk. I gave my notice at my old job and started a new one. I was afraid at first. I was afraid I would fail, but I was more afraid that what I thought I was passionate about would fade when it became my daily routine. I’ve been doing it now for 6 months and I have never been happier. When you spoke to our group, you said, “we all bloom in our own time”. I am blooming now, thanks to you.

Seeing this young person overflowing with joy as a result of acting on a few encouraging words I had said made me feel like a million bucks. It made my day and impacted how I treated everyone else for the rest of the afternoon. I keep it on top of my book case and read it during those times when it feels like everything is uphill and everybody is pushing back.

Gratitude can make you happier. Robert Emmons, a researcher at UC Berkley confirms the oft used maxim that “wanting what we have” is more important than “having what we want”. People who can cultivate a personal culture of gratitude report having more fulfilling lives. And here’s the kicker: Gratitude is a gift that pays both the receiver and the giver.

It’s easy to forget this at work. When I have expressed gratitude to some of my bosses, they often say something like, “I’m not looking for obsequiousity. Tell me what isn’t working so we can get on with fixing it.”

Expressing gratitude can feel like “sucking up” if it doesn’t come from the heart. But if it does, it’s hard for any healthy human being to resist. It can aid in the healing process. It can literally turn someones outlook from darkness toward light.

We all seem to be wired to vector our thoughts in the direction of our faults, mistakes we may have made years ago, traits we don’t have that we wish we did have. Honest affirmation won’t wipe all of that away, but it can give someone the courage to try.

So here’s your exercise for the week. Think of the person who has had the most positive influence in your life. Write down what they did, how it helped you, and why you are grateful. Then take one additional step.

Call them and read it to them.

The human voice adds a richness and depth that makes words on a page come alive. If that person has passed on, read the words aloud to yourself. If they aren’t home, plant them into a heartfelt phonemail message.

Then take stock of how -you- feel afterwards.

Try incorporating more gratitude into your life. You will discover that you have a lot to be thankful for.