Why Saying Thank You is the Secret to Happiness

You might enjoy the practical tips I share about how starting each day with thank you is my secret to happiness and how stopping to say thank every day you helps me appreciate what I have right now.

I appreciate you making this journey with me and hope I can communicate to you what I have learned about how saying thank you has helped me be a lot happier each day.

Gratitude is the secret to happiness because of how saying thank you makes you feel.

The power I see in saying thank you comes from how you feel after you do it.  How many times have you wondered why we cannot appreciate what we have until it is gone? How many times have you wish for a bad day to end?  Hopefully you can get some answers here about these questions that will prove helpful in having more good days and loving what you have while you have it.

Each day, I do not get out of bed until I am thankful for the opportunity.

Usually this means around thirty minutes of thinking about what I am thankful for.  I know other people that start the day off with prayer or meditation get a similar boost in mood.  You might think at first glance this is a minor detail and seems ridiculous given the schedule most of us have.  My wife has to get up at six am for work so when would she have time to do this?  Am I skipping thirty minutes of work I could do each morning to do something that seems optional?

I started doing this in an effort to be happier when my life was getting difficult.  I figured if I started the day off right, I had a lot better chance at not having a bad day.  Thinking back to many of my bad days, they started a lot like this.

“Woke up late.  Hurried to get ready and rushed to work.  Guy pulled out in front of me.  Cussed him out.  Arrived at work utterly disgusted at the world after being awake less than an hour.  Decided I was having a bad day as soon as I sat down at my desk.  Starting thinking of ways I could fix my bad day.  Maybe a few beers after work? Frustrated with my bad day.  My boss comes by and is a jerk.  Dude it’s still three hours until lunch.  I am just going to go get in my car and drive into a tree.  Then this will all be over.  Alright maybe I am not that desperate but I am definitely going to try to drink all of the vodka I have at home.  In seven hours, I can finally enjoy this messed up day I am having.”

How many days have we all had like this?

Why did it take me so long to figure out that where I went wrong was how I started the day out?  When I got out of bed thinking how inadequate I was because I woke up late, the rest of my day followed that same feeling until I would get home and drown it all out with liquor or screaming at video games or both.  How do you think I would feel when the next day got started?

I have heard that Olympic athletes and highly functioning individuals often start their day out with prayer or mediation and have rigid routines throughout the rest of the day to minimize stress and decision making.  Being an agnostic most of my life, I always was openly against any form of prayer and mocked people sitting down to dinner that felt they needed to bless their food before eating.  “Who is that helping?” I always thought.

Maybe now I get it or maybe I am just a different brand of confused.  I see now the power of gratitude in life most concretely by starting my day off with thank you.  As soon as I am conscious, I start looking for things to be thankful for.  Usually this begins with my wife who is up getting ready for work.  Next, I am thankful for our two dogs and usually third for our comfortable bed.  Then, I start having to reach a bit more for things I generally take for granted.  I am thankful the air conditioning is on because it would be ridiculously humid in here if it wasn’t and then I would be sweating and stinky.  I am thankful there isn’t a snake in our bedroom because that would be scary.  I am thankful we have two cars in the garage because I can be sure my wife can get to work even if one car doesn’t start.  I am thankful I have such meaningful work to do today.  I am thankful I have scheduled time to exercise later.  I am thankful that I feel 100% healthy today.  I am thankful I don’t have a hangover this morning.

Sometimes I fall asleep again while doing this and then I wake up and start over.  My rule is I never get out of bed until I am grateful to be doing it.  Who is better off if I get up pissed off?  I certainly am not.  My wife and our dogs are not.  My clients online are not.  The people driving on the road with me and at the gym are not.  The fact is that every single person that wakes up in a bad mood and has a bad day is a liability to us all.  It is an absolute miracle that more bad things do not happen every day on account of the countless numbers of us waking up in a bad mood and taking it out on each other.

Most of my life I went around like a pinball bouncing off of whatever happened to me each day and playing the victim.  That guy was a jerk to me.  That girl did not respect me.  This computer is driving me insane.  What I was always missing was being thankful for the huge amount of good things in my life.  When the guy was being a jerk, I never thought to be thankful he was not being more of a jerk or thought that I was a jerk first.  When my computer was driving me insane, I never stopped to appreciate all of the amazing things it could do.

Most of us have not been raised to intentionally practice gratitude and to be aware that is what we are doing.

Many religions have gratitude practices built in but often these practices are not kept when people become an atheist or an agnostic or apathetic.  Muslims are instructed to stop five times each day to pray.  How would you benefit if you stopped five times each day to say thank you?  You don’t have to pray in any direction or to anyone in particular.

You can just look around and say wow, that’s awesome about something you see in your life.

You probably have seen many Christians praying before a meal thanking God for the food and often for the family and friends around them.  How would you benefit from thanking the animal or plants that died for you so you could eat them and thanking the people eating with you for spending time with you?  Thanking the shrimp I am about to eat for giving me a brief few seconds of pleasure and nourishment in exchange for its life might not seem like much but I know that this makes me appreciate the food I am eating more.  Remembering that another living being gave up its life for me to eat it seems like such an honor and I try to enjoy the taste that much more instead of just stuffing the next bite of food in my mouth.

Getting started with this may not be easy.

We as humans are programmed to accept our surroundings and look for problems.  When we were nomads hunting and trying to avoid predators, this programming made perfect sense.  In our world today where there are billions of things that are beautiful and correct around us, our programming of accepting all of those things with little thought and finding the one thing that is messed up is a huge liability.  The awesome thing is that we are all given the ability to reprogram ourselves.  Just because you have been doing something a certain way your whole life does not mean you ever need to do it that way again.  Gratitude is an easy thing to reprogram yourself on and is a good point to start at if you are struggling with any problem now.

How easy is it to reprogram?

For most of my life, I have taken working on the computer for granted.  The only thoughts I had were fear something would go wrong and F you if it did.  I rarely have stopped to think that a team of people designed the monitor and the keyboard I am using.  An army of people designed the computer processing my inputs and billions of people participate in the growth of the internet where I am publishing this.  The people running the power plants, maintaining the connections, and that created the support systems all deserve my thanks for giving me this opportunity to speak with you right now.  Just seeing this is the key to thinking in terms of thank you instead of F you.

If you want to see the power of saying thank you, start doing it more often.

You will quickly see for yourself how people start treating you better and how things that you used to drive you crazy suddenly disappear.  One area I am practicing this actively is in my email communications for my business online.  For most of the three years I have worked online with my own company, how I have responded to people via email has been a product of whatever mood I was in.  Most days I would respond rationality and selfishly.  Some days I would be more kind and understanding.  A few days I would be a total inconsiderate jerk.  Rarely did I say thank you for anything but making a payment.  Even then, my thanks was often delayed or buried in instructions on how to proceed.  What happened was I got hundreds of one time customers and maintained few long term relationships.

Email is particularly unforgiving for having a bad day because when you say something negative it often looks so much worse in writing.  Fortunately, gratitude has the same power via email.  In everything I do online, I try to start and end with thank you.  This is easy to do in email.  Usually I say thank you for emailing me to begin and I appreciate your time when concluding.

Doing this successfully over time gets a bit more challenging and that is what makes it fun!  I always try to find something I can say thank you for in every email.  Thank you for noticing this or thank you for sharing this update with me is often a good way to begin.  For clients, I generally end with the fact that I appreciate having them as a client and being able to do this work with them.  The positive power of doing this has been unbelievable!

Before committing to gratitude in each email, any problem I had with a client often spiraled into the relationship ending.  Often they would come to me with a compliant or a change and I would respond with something like too bad, it is your fault, or this is what you should do about it.  Regardless of whether it was true or not, my lack of gratitude and kindness in these situations usually left my clients feeling terrible about themselves or feeling terrible in proximity to working with me.  Most of my life I had been in the habit of going for the kill in an argument and I seemed quite effective at sending a passive aggressive email that made people just not want to talk to me anymore online out of frustration.

With using gratitude now, I have a much higher success rate at overcoming problems and perhaps more importantly, I feel better when the problems are out of my control.

Usually what people are doing in life is a function of what is going on with them.  This means you and I usually are not responsible for someone else’s actions and we are stuck reacting.  Practicing gratitude has helped me react much better which at a minimum always makes me feel better.

Ironically, I started taking gratitude seriously first with my wife and never thought to apply it to my entire life.  For most of the three and a half years we have dated, I have actively practiced gratitude with her every day.  I do my best to get her to fall in love with me again each day, give her lots of hugs, and thank her for being with me.  After having done a really poor job of this with girls I dated before my wife, I am determined to provide my wife everything she needs to feel loved every day.

Despite the obvious positive power of this, I never thought to do this with myself or with most anyone else.  In my mind, dating was a separate part of my life that I did not see the relevance to the rest of how I lived.  It seems absurd to look back and see me treating my wife with so much gratitude while treating my business clients with nearly none and myself with even less.  I am thankful I have found the huge power gratitude and being thankful has in helping me go all wrecking ball on my walls.  Seeing that I need to be thankful to myself for every time I do something right and every day I feel good has been a huge blessing.  Saying thank you to all of the people around me helps me feel good about myself which creates a positive feedback loop of healthy behaviors and love.

I appreciate the time you spent sharing these thoughts with me!

I hope the practical tips about how you can add thank you to your mornings or stop your day to say thank you will prove helpful for you in finding the secret to happiness and appreciating what you have now before it is gone.  You don’t have to look back on your life and regret not appreciating what you had.  You can appreciate what you have right now and look back on your life with gratitude for all the wonderful things you had.  You can start and keep living the life you want to right now.  The secret to happiness is already something you know how to do and that is to say thank you!

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