For the past year, I’ve spent most of my time researching the “science” of happiness. What makes people happy? What do happy people do differently? How can we become truly happy in our own way?
A couple different theories continued to crop up.
There’s one I want to focus on today: Gratitude.
Yes, I’m sure you’re sick of reading about the importance of gratitude, but there’s a reason everyone keeps bringing it up.
It fucking works.
Do you ever get pissed off when you wake up earlier than intended? You have time to sleep in, but something jars you awake. That happened to me today; I woke up in a violent fit of shivers because cold rain was beating against my window. I got out of bed in a bad mood, and went to the kitchen to make coffee.
The trash was full, and I did NOT want to take it out in the rain. But here in New Orleans, if you leave trash around, cockroaches will take advantage.
I grabbed the trash, trudged outside, and saw a few garbage men making their way down the street. One came up to me with a HUGE smile and said “oh, you waited just for us? How nice!” I said “Oh yeah, plus I love taking trash out in the freezing rain!” We laughed, I handed him the bag, and he walked off toward the truck whistling.
So here I am, pissed off that I have to go outside for 30 seconds.
Then there’s this guy: he’s been outside for hours doing what is arguably one of the worst jobs in the country. And he’s smiling, laughing, and putting everyone else in a better mood!
Who would you rather be?
A few months ago, I developed a daily gratitude practice, and now I’m ready to share it with you. My practice has evolved over time, and I’ve tried a ton of different techniques. This one is my favorite.
How it works:
There are probably a lot of things that you don’t like to do. Then there are the things you HAVE to do. When these overlap, it creates resentment and unhappiness.
So what are your options?
1. Continue being unhappy
2. Quit doing anything you don’t like
3. Change your mindset
We’re going to focus on #3:
Change your mindset.
I’ll give you a personal example. I hated going grocery shopping. The aisles were cramped, people were always in my way, and waiting in line was torture. So can I stop grocery shopping? Yes, if I made enough money and felt okay with paying someone else to do it. But that’s a lot harder than simply changing my mindset.
So how can you start to enjoy doing things you hate?
Do you know when grocery stores were invented? 1916.
THAT’S LESS THAN 100 YEARS AGO!
How insanely lucky are we that we’re alive right now? What did people do before grocery stores? They either farmed or had to visit about 10 different shops to get what they needed. Plus, they had nowhere near the level of variety that we have now. An average person today eats way, way, way better than Royalty a few hundred years ago.
What about laundry? You probably hate doing it, I know I sure did. But I want you to think about what it was like 150 years ago. You’d have to boil water, rinse and scrub every item, and hang it up to dry. Plus, you’d miss the best part: wearing warm clothes fresh out of the dryer!
This technique works with almost anything, including increasing enjoyment of activities you already like. I’m planning on writing a lot more about gratitude in the next couple of months, so consider this a starting point.
Your assignment: next time you do a chore you don’t like, imagine what you’d have to do 200 years ago. Does that change how you feel?
In the meantime, I’ll always remember Mr. Happy Garbage Man, and the fact that there was no trash pickup in New Orleans for 18 months after Katrina. Taking out the trash = no longer a chore.