I’ve been on a bizarre happiness high since last Saturday when I had a frighteningly close call on a motor bike in Bali that landed me in hospital getting stitches above my right eye.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yep, she’s definitely had a head injury. Who’d be happy about that?!” And yes, while I probably have suffered some concussion symptoms, I’ve realised there’s much more behind my happiness than getting knocked in the head.
But, before I go into that, a quick rant: Firstly, I was wearing a helmet, probably wouldn’t be writing this if I wasn’t. Secondly, Anybody who doesn’t wear a helmet on a motorbike in Bali or anywhere else is an idiot! Ok, that off my chest, back to why I’ve been so happy after takin’ a lickin’ as one of my good friends called it.
I could easily bemoan the new scar on my face (and elbows and knees), ironically just a week before standing as a bridesmaid for one of my best friends (sorry Johanna!), but the truth is I’ve simply been ecstatic with gratitude for being alive!
I keep thinking about how close I came to serious (potentially fatal) injury and each time I flash back to the possible worse case scenario I’m filled with so much gratitude I can actually feel it in my throat.
I really noticed this the first day or two and thought it was simply the effects of adrenaline and shock, but it’s been a week now and the strange thing is that these feelings of gratitude and joy are just getting stronger.
The thing about having a nice shiner is that you can’t hide it. Which means EVERYONE wants to know what happened. Which means I have to talk to EVERYONE about what happened, from students to friends to store clerks and strangers in the coffee shop.
It dawned on me today that each time I tell my story I also tell people how grateful I am for getting out of it alive and well, for the friends that helped me (thanks Nadine and Brenton) and for a million other little things that seem to be growing by the day.
And then I realised, this is actually why I’m on such a happiness high. I’m naming and feeling thankful for things far more than I usually do.
So, I decided to do a little research on gratitude.
Emmons tested three groups over ten weeks, one that wrote down regularly five things they were grateful for, one that listed five things that hassled them and the third five neutral events that happened in the day.
Not only was the gratitude group happier by 25%— but they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they even did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than those in the hassles or events groups.
Emmons did the same test over 21 days with a group of adults with neuromuscular disorders from the polio virus that causes serious debilitation. In other words, people who could easily be spiteful about the card life dealt them.
Participants in the gratitude condition were found to be more satisfied with their lives, more optimistic about the upcoming week and crucially, were sleeping better. Good sleep not only is an indicator of wellbeing but also leads to greater wellbeing, health and happiness.
I want to stay on this happiness high.
Emmons suggests that a simple regular gratitude practice can keep us all feeling happier and sustaining that happiness. His research shows that spending only 2 minutes a week of naming the things you’re grateful for is all you need to do to feel happier about life.
In my classes this week we’ve been dedicating ourselves to acknowledging the things and people we’re grateful for, especially the one’s we easily take for granted.
To ingrain this lesson into my psyche and develop it into a habit I’ve decided to start a 21 Days of Gratitude Instagram Challenge, and I hope you’ll join me!!
Either respond to my posts and share what you’re grateful for or start your own 21 Days of Gratitude with #21daysofgratitude and #whatareyougratefulfor?
Let’s start a wave of gratitude and happiness and keep it going by making it a habit!