Updated: Jun 13, 2019
A couple of months ago, during an ice storm, a big limb from the tree in our front yard crashed down onto our roof.
At first we thought it had just damaged the front awning of our porch and figured we'd check it out once the storm had passed.
Several hours after we heard the "boom" of the tree limb falling, we were fast asleep when David awoke thinking, "the rain sounds mighty loud tonight." It was loud. Especially loud given that it was falling directly into our room from our ceiling and down the walls.
He jumped into action (I had some trouble computing) and we spent the rest of the night moving furniture and hauling buckets of water in and out from under the holes. As the water started spreading downstairs to the first floor, we understood that this was going to be a significant problem. One that came to consume weeks and months of our life.
During the long night and the days ahead I was strangely calm and grounded. Perhaps I was naive about the annoyances that were in our future, and yet all I could think of were the positives: no one was hurt, we have insurance, we'll get it fixed, we were lucky and strategic to move everything away from the wet zones, we got the hole fixed before our trip to California so we still attended our friends' wedding, the kids stayed asleep the whole night, our beloved carpet was spared...and so on.
This is a long introduction to the concept I want to explore in this post-- gratitude and it's relationship to luck.
For those of you following this blog since the beginning, you may recall our last discussion about gratitude.
Getting into the space of gratitude and appreciation, even when rain is pouring through your ceiling, can help increase your luck in a few ways:
1) Positive emotions, like gratitude (but there are others too), help us to counter our tendency to focus on the negative. Even in the most challenging circumstances we can still count our blessings (even if they are tiny compared to our problems). Gratitude also helps us bounce back from setbacks. Resilience (as you'll recall from "Get Lucky, Part 1") is one of the key characteristics of lucky people.
2) Positive emotions broaden our attention so we can see more possibilities. They broaden our ability to problem solve and think creatively. Positive emotions, like gratitude, also increase our ability to see different pathways to our goals.
3) Positive emotions build our internal resources, both cognitive and social. This means that through positive emotions we can learn new things and bond with others who can help us. They are so valuable to our survival that researchers like Barbara Fredrickson, have argued that positive emotions have helped us evolve as a species.
Counting our blessings counters the tendency we all have to focus on what we don't have, rather than what we have. When we notice the resources available to us, we're more able to accomplish our goals.
Subscribers to my site will receive a complimentary gratitude hack that has been shown to increase happiness over time. Subscribe today if you haven't yet at the bottom of this page.
For all of you out there, here are some additional gratitude activities to try (adapted from the Positive Psychology Toolbox):
Random Reach Out
Reach out to someone for whom you feel grateful, but do not often express your appreciation. This could be in the form of an email, hand-written note, or as simple as a phone call or text. Express specifically what actions they have taken for you which makes you feel grateful for him/her.
Immediate Gratitude Expression
After someone has done something for you which you really appreciate, send a brief email or leave a short message stating exactly what action(s) the person took and how it made you feel.
To increase household community and connection with one another, make it an evening dinner practice for each person to list one thing that he/she is grateful for that day.
A Box of Gratitude
Collect items that trigger a fond memory and place them in a nicely decorated box or treasure chest. Take ten minutes every other week to look through your memories, appreciate your experiences, and, if you wish, add or replace your items.
Triggered? Fall back to Gratitude
Begin to notice when you are triggered. Examples of common instances where people are triggered include someone cutting you off in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for your internet to connect, and waiting for a text to send when there is bad reception. In these times when you feel agitation or anger rise within you, take three breaths and think about what you are grateful for instead. This will bring you back to your centre instead of being carried away in the triggered emotion.
Spend once a month to volunteer your time. Practice giving, and potentially receiving, gratitude for your opportunity to contribute.
Observe how these activities affect you and do let me know if you give some of them a shot.