I recently heard about an interesting study that examined the lives of two groups of people: those who had won the lottery and those who had become paraplegic. You might assume that the group of people who broke their backs would be less happy than the group of instant millionaires. But that’s not what the study showed.
One year after their supposed “life-changing event,” both groups expressed the same levels of happiness.
We often assume that our happiness or misery is directly connected to the things outside of us: our job, the people around us, the things we have or don’t have. But that’s simply not true.
Abundance does not come from things. Abundance comes from a mindset. Feeling rich or poor has very little to do with what we actually have, but comes rather from how we think about what we have. Fortunately, we can counteract the scarcity mindset by developing an abundance mindset through one simple practice: gratitude.
Even as I write this, I feel a little doubt about what I’m saying because I live in relative ease compared to the lives of many. I have food, I have health, I have a home. I can’t tell you that I would find happiness even in a concentration camp — but I can tell you the story of someone who has.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and one of my heroes. She and her family hid Jews during the holocaust. But eventually they were caught and her family arrested and sent to prison, which led to the death of her father. In her book, The Hiding Place, she tells the incredible story of being transferred to Ravensbruck, an infamous death camp in Germany.
As they walked into their barracks where they slept on filthy straw, crammed onto wooden planks with hundreds of other prisoners, they discovered that the place was crawling with fleas, tiny biting insects that chewed on them day and night. Corrie’s sister, in that moment, decided to follow a verse from the Bible: be grateful in all things. Corrie and her sister said a prayer of gratitude in that moment, even for the fleas.
Because of their attitude, their experience in the camp was one of service and doing good. They lifted up others through group meetings each evening. And later, they even learned that the fleas protected them — they kept the guards from coming into their barracks. The fleas made it possible for them to hold their meetings in peace.
Betsie eventually died while there, and Corrie was released 12 days later due to a clerical error. And after she was released she continued to do good, housing and protecting the disabled, who feared extermination, and teaching love and forgiveness, even toward two of the guards at Ravensbruck, one of whom had been particularly cruel to Betsie. You really should read the whole book; it’s incredible.
Brene Brown said: “Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice. And both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us.”
In my opinion, gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to shift into a state of peace and connect with your inner joy. And the research backs this up. The active practice of gratitude is pretty easy to do, but it actually changes brain chemistry and structure.
In this post I’m going to teach you how gratitude changes the brain, as well as some really simple ways to practice gratitude so that you can be happier and healthier.