5 Ways to Happiness: Have an Attitude of Gratitude

, Posted: Thu, November 21 2013 at 6:30 PM, Updated: Fri, November 22 2013 at 6:20 PM

It's day 4 in our special week-long series, 5 Ways to Happiness.

Today, is about being thankful for what you've got. It's one more way to boost your happiness.

Little three-year-old Joel is still smiling, even though from the day he was born, life hasn't been easy.

"We thought he was a perfectly healthy baby and about five hours after he was born [...] they transferred him to a children's hospital and we found out that he had four heart defects that needed surgery right away," said Joel's mom Kari Mcgrew.

But then the punches kept coming.

"He didn't get better, he got worse. One thing lead to another and he had brain bleeds first, then he had a stroke [...] we ended up having eight surgeries before we left at 3.5 months."

Joel, who his mom calls Jo-Jo, at two-years-old had gone through 14 surgeries.

"He ended up being a $2.8-million baby at three months old," she began.

"It was really tough because we didn't know if he was going to live or not."

However, despite all the hard times the family has encountered over the last three years, smiles still come easily to both Jo-Jo and his mom.

"I'm just thankful we were able to keep him a littler longer," she said.

Having gratitude is another way to happiness.

We've already covered steps one through three. The first way to a being happier is choosing happiness and identifying things you love or are good at and doing them more often.

The second way is seeing the positives in difficult situations that arise in life.

Third, it's important to develop meaningful relationships with others.  

Now, the fourth way to a happier you?

"It's what we like to call an attitude of gratitude. So, more or less appreciating what you have now," said Doug Smith, Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Oregon University. 

He and others say the key is to focus on what you have at the moment and not what you might have in the future.

"Because humans are so adaptable [...] you get a promotion at work, you can even get a raise and you genuinely feel happy, but those things we adapt to so gradually we move back to this happiness set point," said Cody Christopherson, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at SOU.

If you're thinking that something say as big as winning the lotto would make you happier, think again. According research, at first happiness soars off the charts.

"But if you come back and you look at these people a short time later, sometimes it's only a few weeks or a few months, their level of happiness has come back down at their original level," said Smith.

Mom, Kari Mcgrew didn't win the lottery, but she knows what it's like to live a bit lavishly.

"We were so happy, we had this cushy, wonderful great life."

However, that was before Joel's health conditions came up.

"Suddenly you're fighting for your child's life, you realize it just doesn't matter, that stuff doesn't matter at all."

Now what matters most is more time with her little boy.

"Last Thanksgiving we were at the Thanksgiving table and we had to feed our son through his feeding tube at Thanksgiving dinner. He didn't eat thanksgiving dinner. This year, he will and we're so thankful."

She said she's grateful for the extra time she gets to spend with her son. She's happy to see him playing and being just as inquisitive as any other little boy his age. 

"There's always something to be thankful for, always."
On Friday, we'll wrap up the week's special series 5 Ways to Happiness.

Ever heard of the expression giving is getting? There will be an explanation on Friday's newscast on NBC 5 News at 6.

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