Looking for Happiness? Try Gratitude First!

By Addison Killeen

January 30, 2024

I recently participated in a book study for “Build the Life You Want” by Arthur Brooks on the Daily Dental Podcast. We delved into common misconceptions about happiness, uncovered the “secret sauce” of happiness, and explored ways to enhance our everyday happiness.
A key element is gratitude, but before diving into its science, let’s discuss caffeine. As the world’s most commonly used drug, (in fact, I’m drinking it right now,) caffeine intriguingly affects our brain. When adenosine builds up, it induces sleepiness. However, caffeine competes with adenosine for neuroreceptors, displacing it and creating a sensation of alertness. This illustrates how we can replace tiredness with excitement.
This concept extends beyond caffeine; we don’t have to settle for our initial emotional reactions. We can choose our emotions, and choice is crucial. If we’re selecting an emotion for a quick boost, I’d argue for “gratefulness.” The world is so full of terrible and negative information and sometimes that leads us to take it all in. Despite our natural tendency towards negativity bias, gratitude stands out as a powerful counterforce.
Research underscores this. In a 2018 study, psychologists divided participants into groups tasked with recalling either a grateful memory or something neutral. The group focusing on gratitude reported experiencing five times more positive emotions than the control group, highlighting gratitude’s profound impact.
From a scientific perspective, gratitude activates the medial prefrontal cortex, a key part of the brain’s reward pathway. So, if you’re seeking a reward, start with gratitude. It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg dilemma, isn’t it?
How can we cultivate more gratitude? A practical method is journaling. I personally use the 4 Futures Journal, which aids in focusing on what’s important and stimulates a sense of gratitude.
I hope this insight into gratitude helps you find greater happiness in your life.
P.S. If you’re looking to join a community that fosters gratitude, consider the Dental Success Network. It’s a great place for dentists to connect with like-minded individuals and grow together.