Specific gratitude

Keeping a gratitude diary, or less pretentiously, taking some time out of every day to write down the things you’re thankful for, is an effective way to increase happiness.

And I’d like to suggest one small addition.

In addition to writing down things you’re thankful for (rainbows, puppies, burritos) take some time each day to express your gratitude to a specific person.

Send a thank-you note or a postcard. Send an email or text to that person. Pick up the phone. Or simply say “thank you” face to face.

It could be a good friend or family member who you love and who loves you. It could be someone at work you think is overdue for some appreciation. Or it could be the barista serving you a coffee or the bus driver taking you home. Take a minute to let that person know you recognize them as another human, and that you’re grateful for what they’re bringing to you.

I think this will not only spread happiness, but also an understanding of the ways in which we’re all interconnected and interdependent.

As the Buddhist grace goes, “Seventy-two labors brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.” This prayer is meant as a reminder of codependent origination, or what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the inter-being of all things: sunshine, air, water. In fact seventy-two is an understatement; I always remember this prayer as “10,000 things.” Whatever the number, some of those things are specific people: Those who grew the food, who harvested it, who sold it, who shopped for it, who cooked it, and who washed the dishes afterward.

We should know how things come to us.

 

Further reading:

Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded (the Dalai Lama and Arthur C. Brooks)

A 23-Minute Morning Ritual That Will Transform Your Whole Day (Marcel Schwantes)

Specific gratitude