Want To Be Happier?


We all want it and most of us have no idea how to get it. Until now???

According to researcher Dr. Steven Toepfer, THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS IS GRATITUDE.

I can hear you asking…Gratidtude for what? The economy is going down the tubes, we are running out of oil, I am working harder and longer than ever before and I still may lose my job, and on top of that, there’s the threats of terrorism and global warming.

According to Kent State University’s Dr. Steven Toepfer, we have been going about it all wrong.

“Everyone is pursuing the American dream. We are wealthier than previous generations, consuming more and experiencing more, but yet so many of us are so unhappy,” Toepfer says.

“The question of ‘is there something simple we can do to be happier?‘ is one that he has been thinking about for many years and one that has interested people for much longer.”

With that question in mind, Toepfer enlisted a group of students to explore the effects of writing letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted the students’ lives.

Over the course of a six-week period, students wrote one letter every two weeks with the simple ground rules that it had to be positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.

After each letter, students completed a survey to gauge their moods, satisfaction with life and feelings of gratitude and happiness.

“I saw their happiness increase after each letter. The more they wrote, the better they felt,” says Toepfer, who also witnessed improvement in participants’ life satisfaction and gratitude throughout the study.

“The most powerful thing in our lives is our social network.

It doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t always need to be the life of the party, but just having one or two significant connections in your life has shown to have terrific psychological and physical benefits.”

In all, 75 percent of the students said they planned to continue to write letters of gratitude even when the course was over.

“We are all walking around with an amazing resource: gratitude,” says Toepfer. “It helps us express and enjoy, appreciate, be thankful and satisfied with a little effort.

We all have it, and we need to use it to improve our quality of life.”

An Extra Bonus

And if that wasn’t enough, there is a growing body of research showing that positive emotions such as happiness are linked to good health and increased longevity.

This 2006 study showed that a PES (Positive Emotional Style – or happiness for the non-science geeks reading this) was associated with an increased resistance to the common cold and the influenza virus.


I must admit that when it comes to making health claims, I need proof. But when it comes to happiness, or examining the impact of happiness on my health / longevity, proof is a little hard to come by.

It is difficult to distinguish between the effects of positive and negative emotions. For example, do elderly living on their own or with family live longer because they are happy or because they are not sad?

It’s not a simple equation. However, modern medicine has no problem stating that emotional stress is a very real threat to our health.

So, why shouldn’t happiness be a very real benefit to our health?

Want to Be Happier – Part 2



  1. I think research and medicine focus so much on negative emotions. How to fix whats wrong! But it seems that there is now some new research coming out that looks at the flip side….what is happiness and what to do to get it. I like it.

  2. First, that is the scariest looking happy face.

    Second, as someone on the ‘get fit’ journey I think happiness is a significant factor in my ability to continue to try to change my eating and exercise habits. I’ve tried so many times before to bully and punish my body into submission to a diet / exercise regime.

    This time I began with acceptance. Whatever I do I need to feel good doing it.

    This doesn’t mean that I don’t sweat on the treadmill, or push myself with the weights. Good exercise makes me feel … happy. What it does mean is that instead of hating my body to being with I accept where I am, I took my eye off the long goal and I’m appreciating the small steps towards improvement. I don’t think about what I ‘can’t have’ I think about how I ‘can have it’ and ‘do I really want it’….

    This has made me a much happier person while trying to get healthy. Which, I think is a large part of why I am still trying, and progressing, 10 months in instead of having quit 7 months ago and returning to square one on January 1st, 2009 as per usual.

  3. Great Gratitude posting!

    It’s a good illustration of The First Law of Happiness – Our Focus Determines Our Feelings.

    When we focus our attention on things we find bad, we feel sad, angry or anxious.

    When we change our focus to good things we feel exited, elevated, exhuberant, enthusiastic.

    Explore and enjoy http://HappinessHabit.com for details!

  4. An ‘attitude of gratitude’ has a long history of making people happier. My Grandma called it ‘counting your blessings’ and some researchers at UC Davis say “Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research.” http://tinyurl.com/2uoazql
    No matter what you call it, awareness of what is right will always make what is wrong seem less important!

  5. Yes Gratitude is the attitude to have. By focusing on what you don’t have, you put your mindset the road to negativity, and ruminating on what is missing in your life also helps decrease how motivated you feel. On the flipside there will always be people worse off then you, for example those who don’t have good physical health due to illness. On the other flipside, there will always be people who have more then you, but never compare yourself to others, as at the end of the day, people only present what they want you to see.

Comments are closed.