Corrie Ten Boom learned to be grateful for the fleas.
She was an incredible woman who, along with her father and sister, hid Jews in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II. Her family had a history of service and gratitude. Her mom learned to be grateful for life and continue serving, despite having a stroke and only being able to say 3 words: “yes,” “no,” and “Corrie.” Eventually, Corrie and her family were discovered to be working in the underground anti-Nazi movement and sent to a concentration camp. The conditions and treatment there were brutal and cannot be imagined by someone with an comfortable life like me. One day at the concentration camp, Corrie’s sister admonished her to be grateful for the fleas. She thought that her sister was being ridiculous, but she followed her example and prayed in gratitude for the fleas. Later, they found out that the concentration camp guards would not come into one of the rooms because they did not want the fleas to bite them. Consequently, the women were able to talk freely amongst themselves and offer hope and support to one another through their smuggled Bible (another miracle).
Gratitude and Happiness
Much can be learned from Corrie’s strength and incredible story, which she tells in her memoir, but this post focuses on just one lesson: gratitude increases happiness. We know this not only from our own experiences but from science as well. Several researchers have found relationships between gratitude and satisfaction with life and positive emotions.¹ Not only does this science tell us that gratitude and happiness go hand in hand, but other great things as well such as exercise, health benefits, less negative emotions and helping others. This post on gratitude by Healthbeat by Harvard Health Publications reviews that gratitude can also help relationships and work productivity.² Other research has found that gratitude is a protective factor against depression.³ I’m sure the list can go on and on, but this blog post can’t turn into a book. Suffice it to say that gratitude has several benefits, one of them being increasing happiness and protecting against depression.
So, since gratitude increases happiness, here are 8 ideas to be more grateful.
Express gratitude to people around you. You can do this in person and give your family member or friend a hug. You can write a thank you note. You can sneak in a fun surprise with a sweet note into their lunch. No matter how simple, the thank you notes I have received are cherished. On the other side of the equation, I feel happier when I make an effort to find something I am grateful for that day about my husband and express gratitude to him.
Pray or Meditate
Pray or meditate while counting your blessings. Like Corrie was such a great example of, doing this can give your life a much larger perspective and sense of well-being and hope, despite the hardships. I probably cannot emphasize this one enough.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Keep a gratitude journal. I have personally found that I am happier when I write in my journal because I find myself not only working through my emotions but also remembering happy memories and blessings. Choose a way to write that is right for you. You can write general experiences that you are thankful for. You can keep a journal that is specifically for blessings and make a list of things you are grateful for-both generally and specifically for that day. Several people have posted journal prompts online and each day you can write about a different prompt.
Make a Gratitude Jar
Keep a gratitude jar. The whole family can have fun putting in a marble when they say or remember something they are thankful for. It then becomes a visual display of blessings in your family’s life.
Use a Gratitude Calendar
Google or search on Pinterest for gratitude calendars or prompts. Each day, it will prompt you with a question about something to be grateful for that you can continue pondering throughout the day.
Instead of expressing gratitude, show gratitude. Think of someone you are grateful for and engage in an act of service for them. Or, think of something you have been blessed with in your life and serve someone who is less fortunate than you. How much greater is it to not only express but show?!
Go on a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt
Go on a gratitude scavenger hunt with your family or friends. I saw this idea on Pinterest, and I think it’s awesome. It sounds like so much fun and I bet kids would love it. Hey-even I would love creating and going on a gratitude scavenger hunt with friends as an adult. This is now on my bucket list of ideas to do.
Create Gratitude Art
Draw, paint, or create a collage of things that you are grateful for. I personally am not artistic with a paint brush, but I love making collages from cut outs of family pictures and magazine pictures. Display it in a prominent area where you can see the visual reminders of your blessings. Several others have posted ideas of crafts that you can do with kids with different aspects of it having something to be grateful for on it.
¹ Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48(2). DOI: 10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527
¹Nansook, P., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23(5). Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/6342306/park_2bet_2bal._2b_282004_29_2bmodified_2boctober_2b22.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1502776335&Signature=KVH0AV8aCh0tFQY9aGrKuGyax0s%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DStrengths_of_character_and_well-being.pdf
³ Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality 42(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2007.11.003