Have you ever saved up for something, bought it, and then felt empty inside? Or perhaps you worked hard to achieve a goal, but realized the journey was more fulfilling than the achievement? This phenomenon is called hedonic adaptation: the idea that people return to a set level of happiness regardless of what happens to them.
In other words, as you earn more, acquire additional things, and achieve higher goals, your expectations also rise in tandem. Ergo, these things result in no permanent gain in happiness. The opposite is also true. When we get used to having less, it takes less to please us.
So naturally, after expecting happiness, but instead feeling emptiness, we start doubting it all. We start focusing on the negative so we continually see the negative. This leads to objectively very successful people being not fully satisfied with their lives.
So are we destined to feelings of emptiness and inadequacy? It's a fairly depressing prospect, and for many years I was resigned to this case. However, there is a simple tool we found that can transform your outlook: gratitude.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Practicing it is so simple that it seems there must be a catch. First, you need a prompt to remind you to practice in the morning. We suggest having a Post-it note attached to your bathroom mirror that simply says "gratitude." Every morning when you notice it, repeat the statement "I am grateful for _" five times, and try to keep whatever it is you are grateful for as specific and timely as possible (names of people, specific actions they did, etc.).
For example, "I'm grateful to John for encouraging me when our revenue modeling was inaccurate." Or "I'm grateful to Jane; her help the other day has had such a positive impact on my life."
That's all there is to it! We have seen that a regular practice of gratitude has a marked change on people's outlook, helping them focus on the important things in their life, the things they truly value.
Appreciation is just gratitude stated to the person whom you feel grateful about. It's free to give, yet that simple act can make someone's day, week, or month.
We recommending doing it in writing (text, email, Slack) so that its easier to give and more impactful when received. In fact, we have a public #shout-out Slack channel that you can give other's appreciation. Just make sure it's specific - appreciating generalities can sometimes come off as insincere.