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The Secret to Happiness: 5 Tips to Feel More Grateful and Blissful

Happy Woman

“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” ~William Penn 

Did you know that gratitude has been scientifically proven to strengthen your immune system and make you happier and more optimistic, as well as less lonely and isolated? It’s true, and although science has just recently caught up to this fact, the Buddhists have known it for years.

On a recent trip to Bhutan, my husband and I climbed to the Bumdra monastery and camped at 11,500 feet. The air was pure and clean, and the views were spectacular. And yet when the sun went down, all I could focus on were my frozen hands and feet.

As we huddled around the fire, I just wanted to climb into my sleeping bag and warm myself. The temperatures had dropped just below freezing, and any joy I might have felt was overshadowed by my chattering teeth.

Our guide, on the other hand, seemed impervious to the cold. He was wearing a Gho, a traditional knee-length robe that ties at the waist—and yet here I was, bundled in my down coat, freezing.

I asked him if he was cold, and he replied that he was grateful to be able to camp at this sacred site.

I kept questioning him, as I couldn’t really believe his answer. I truly couldn’t understand how he could ignore this bone-chilling cold. Didn’t he want a warmer jacket; didn’t he need a heater?

His reply humbled me: “Rather than focusing on what I don’t have, I focus on what I do—I am lucky to have a fire, I am lucky to have this job, I am lucky to have a tent, and I am lucky to have your company.”

I realized that he had just shared a very important secret to happiness. Focusing on our blessings allow us to celebrate the present moment and keep our attention on the good instead of the bad.

Human nature is to want what we don’t have and to dwell on the negatives—instead of celebrating what we do have and focusing on what’s going well.

My husband and I had planned this trip for months and had spent hours hiking up the mountain. And yet during the hike I had complained about being hot, and now here I was complaining about the cold. But as I listened to our guide share his contagious sense of gratitude, my attitude shifted, and I started to focus on my blessings.

I began to enjoy the incredible darkness and stillness of the night sky. I began to really focus on the stars, which cannot really be enjoyed living in a city that obscures the light. I began to really listen to this wise man and enjoy his stories.

Here’s the thing: being grateful has the power to block out negative emotions. You can’t really pay attention to what’s missing or what’s not going well if you only let your mind pay attention to what is.

As I began to enjoy the peacefulness of the night with my husband, my attitude changed, the cold faded, and I was suddenly filled with joy and gratitude for this incredible experience.

Weather changes, possessions come and go, and experiences—both good and bad–all come to an end. But our attitude of gratitude allows us to be fully present in every moment and to enjoy every last one.

Here are a few simple things to try to start feeling a little more blissful on a regular basis:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Make gratitude a daily habit. Every day, jot down 10 great things that happened to you or that you are grateful for. Keeping your focus on the positive will really make a difference.

2. Practice present moment awareness.

The habit of being fully present and not wishing for something in the future or the past—but just being grateful for what is—can really shift your perspective. Catch yourself when that moment escapes you, and gently remind yourself to come back.

3. Think bigger than yourself.

Become involved in a cause that is important to you. As you become aware of other people who are less fortunate than you, you will start to feel a deeper appreciation for what you do have.

4. Share the love with your family and friends.

Cultivate appreciation for others and let them know regularly that you are grateful for them and for what they do for you—whether it be helping around the house or always inviting you out for a fun dinner date. Focusing on the positive will make people want to keep doing it!

5. Replace complaints with gratitude.

When you find yourself focusing on what you believe you’re lacking—I wish my car were nicer, my house were bigger, I had more money—replace it with thoughts of what you are grateful and thankful for.

What are you grateful for today?

Photo by Graham Crumb

Avatar of Lynne Goldberg

About Lynne Goldberg

Lynne Goldberg is a holistic lifestyle coach, certified meditation teacher and founder of Live Bliss Now—devoted to empowering personal transformation through stress reduction, meditation and a whole foods plant-based diet. For more information, visit LiveBlissNow.com.

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  • Sadie

    I agree that if you’re focused on houses, cars, money – things you want – it’s a good idea to reflect a little more deeply on what matters and what you are already blessed with. But sometimes our circumstances overwhelm us. Loss, abuse, poverty, injustice. It seems dismissive to suggest that gratitude can directly result in happiness in these kinds of situations. I just lost somebody I love and my job doesn’t fit with my values. I have a lot to be thankful for and I reflect on that every day but I am still sad. I cry a lot. Being grateful for what I do have doesn’t take away the reality that I have to work through my sadness and make some actual changes in my life. Being hopeful and thankful helps but sometimes it isn’t just your attitude that needs to be fixed.

  • Jon

    Go ahead and get all blissed out but remember that it’s cyclical and cannot last forever. Instead of trying to gain bliss why not just accept life as it is right now? Bliss is a toy, we are grown ups here. The misery and suffering stems from the idea that there is something better out there than what is here now. Suffering is a result of trying to make cyclical things permanent and trying to change what can’t be changed. Go ahead and practice awareness but know that awareness is the same whether you practice it or not. Awareness is awareness and is always present with or without practice. Practicing awareness is like practicing beating your heart, it’s beyond your control in the first place. These tips for trying to bring about happiness is the reason you suffer and the reason you are looking for an escape. There is no escape. Everything you do to try to escape your suffering only makes it worse. Just accept it and live your life. :)

  • growthguided

    I think the effectiveness of a gratitude list in the morning is paramount!

    As soon as you open your eyes be thinking about the blessings you have! What better mental approach to the day than that? Simple, quick, free and can shift all the perspective in the world for the day!

    Thank you for the post!

  • Mike Grady

    Heavy. True. God Bless

  • marlene

    meditation is good for working through sadness and eating healthy and spending time in nature. I was depressed my whole life and once I started volunteering, eating healthy, exercising, walking in nature, walking meditation, always reading positive, no TV and meditating my sadness lifted … it is not like I don’t ever get sad but it doesn’t last as long and I don’t have to take any medication and always always being thankful every morning before I get out of bed I lay there and am thankful for my eyes, my nose, my body, that I can walk, that I can breathe, for my bed, for what I do have. All these things helped me. I hope they help you too. hugs

  • http://www.worldclasslasik.com/ Lasik

    Thanks for the motivation!

  • http://www.barefootbeginnings.net/ Tina Williamson

    Sounds like you went on a great adventure. I often find myself also complaining about being cold, haha, I’m always cold. It’s so true though that it clouds our present moment.
    I’ve been working towards incorporating a daily gratitude practice into my life. Thanks for the reminder. Great article!

  • Lynne Goldberg

    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds as if you are really aware of the changes you wish to make. I have found that as you mourn someone you love it is helpful to focus on the joy and love and parts of them you respected and admired. As you incorporate these parts of them into your life you can honour their memory and truly make them a part of who you are. As you remember them, you can be grateful for how they have enriched your life.

    Good Luck

  • Lynne Goldberg

    Thank you! Sounds like we are all on the same journey!

  • Lynne Goldberg

    Beautiful!!

  • Lynne Goldberg

    Suffering comes from expecting permanence . When we realize that everything is impermanent, the weather, our moods even our bodies we can detach from our expectations. It is in this freedom that we can find our bliss.

  • Josh Emmanuel

    I’m grateful for your post!
    Gratitude is one thing you can never have too much of – makes life so much better!!

  • http://risingdaily.com/ CJ Rising

    Just yesterday I was thinking about how many of us focus on negative interactions we have with people. That can really sour your mood. Like the guy who cuts you off on the highway. But why not try focusing on the pleasant interactions you have with people? Like the person who said “excuse me” or “thank you” in the grocery store. I’m going start really appreciating the nice people I encounter and see what happens.

  • Lynne Goldberg

    So true,

  • Lynne Goldberg

    Thanks for your comment! So true- Gratitude does make things so much better.

  • Lynne Goldberg

    Thanks Lasik! Glad you found it helpful.

  • Jon

    I agree. Except for the bliss part. Freedom, once you know it, isn’t anything like Bliss. It’s nothing. Bliss is what they sell in the market place. You can attain experiences of bliss through meditation and yoga but don’t mistake the bliss for freedom, it’s just another illusion. Freedom has nothing to do with bliss.

  • http://simple-easy-life.com/ Bharti

    Insightful. Good read :)

  • Dilip

    I’m grateful for having read this post! Thanks a lot :)

  • Drow Queen

    Thank you so much for this. It re-directs some thinking I have been trying to accomplish.

  • Eddie Gear

    I’m grateful to you Lynne for writing this article and reminding on what I should be focusing on. I’m grateful for so many things that I’ve ignored to see so long and now you have opened my eyes to look at the blessings in my life. So Thank you.

  • epepota

    I strongly recommend the 5-min journal (http://www.fiveminutejournal.com/)

  • Li-ling

    Sadie, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I know well how sometimes our head tells us all about the ‘shoulds’ – we should be more grateful, we should count our blessings, but I sincerely believe there are times when our life’s journey just has to travel down certain paths, and perhaps sometimes these seem like dark tunnels, but there is nothing wrong with accepting things just the way they are.
    We cannot always change things, even our own attitudes, and believe me, change will come when you’re ready. For now, just trust that all you are doing is enough. Take care.

  • caroline

    Accepting loss, while at the same time doing the above is wisdom. Thank you for this article – its concise reminders about how to be grateful were appreciated.