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Healthy Living

The Secret To Happiness Is Not What You'd Expect

There will always be good days and bad days. But there is always something good to be found in those bad days.

Last week in one of my classes at USC, we had guest speaker Todd Lieman, founder of the “A Day Well Lived” project, speak about his work, uncovering one key way to improving overall happiness: gratitude. On the darkest of days, Lieman would think long and hard about what he was thankful for - a practice that isn’t just limited to Thanksgiving - writing down three things each night before bed that he was grateful for. He later instilled this same practice in his son in order to reinforce what’s really important in life. (I encourage you to try it for yourself)!

Feeling inspired, I began to put this philosophy into practice myself, writing down three things I was thankful for each night before bed. Today my three things are: 1) that it is sunny and 75 outside, 2) that my mom sent me a wonderful care package, and 3) that my roommate picked up my favorite type of hummus at Whole Foods ― it’s all about the little things!

Let those people who mean the most to you know how you feel by putting into words just how grateful you are to have them in your life.

But gratitude can come in other forms besides just counting your blessings. Some people choose to express gratitude in the form of a letter. Let those people who mean the most to you know how you feel by putting into words just how grateful you are to have them in your life. Hearing from you will make their day and surely put a smile on their face. Part of expressing gratitude is sharing joy with others as gratefulness can be contagious.

Lieman is not the only one who has discovered the benefits of gratitude, especially in children. In fact, psychologists have conducted numerous studies illustrating the benefits of gratitude across multiple facets of people’s lives. Taking just one minute out of the 1440 minutes in a day can have a huge impact on one’s subjective well-being and overall outlook in life. According to Jeffrey Froh, David Miller and Stephanie Synder in a study by the School Psychology Forum, people who express gratitude tend to enjoy their work more, express more optimism and energy, and are more likely to help those who do not experience gratitude.

So even on those days when nothing is going your way, take a moment of appreciation and realize that each day has the capacity to be a day well lived.

Lieman took this to heart and sought to bring gratitude to others and to thank those who got him through the tough days. Reflecting on his own appreciation, Lieman decided to share his joy with people around the world and founded an organization, which he called “A Day Well Lived.” While the organization began with a tweet, it has since gained national traction, attracting 100,000 members on Facebook in its first year.

So even on those days when nothing is going your way, take a moment of appreciation and realize that each day has the capacity to be a day well lived. With all of the tragedy going on in the world, it’s important to remember just how lucky we are and to cherish those things in life that we hold so close to us. A little gratitude can go a long way.