Can Gratitude Make You Healthier and Wealthier?

December 21, 2016
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Learn to be grateful—it’s not just a Sunday-school platitude. Science shows that inviting thankfulness into your life is one of the most effective ways to increase happiness.  Being grateful, science has asserted, can make you happier, healthier and wealthier. Fortunately, there exists the science of happiness, by now comprising hundreds of experiments run at major universities about what makes people happy—and what makes happiness stick. Among the characteristics of happy people is gratitude. In fact, there is no greater factor in making us happy, according to the authors of The Happiness Equation: 100 Factors That Can Add to or Subtract From Your Happiness. Stephen M. Poulan is the author of several bestsellers, including Die Broke and It’s All in Your Head. He tells what finally got him to stop striving for what he didn’t have, and realize that the only thing he was lacking in his life was gratitude.

“In 1978, I was the 48-year-old chairman of an American Stock Exchange-listed venture capital firm. I had a lovely wife, Corky, and four incredible children: Michael, Lori, Tracy, and Dana. We had recently moved from a home on suburban Long Island to a 12-room apartment on New York’s Park Avenue. During the summer, the whole family stayed at a house we’d built on Martha’s Vineyard.” “Was I happy? No, I was living in the future. Not only couldn’t I stop and smell the roses, I couldn’t stop and smell dinner on the table, since I didn’t get home until 10 p.m. I was smoking three packs a day, and the only exercise I was getting was bending my elbow.” You get the idea.

Then one day at his physician’s office, Dr. Dove heard Poulan’s labored breathing and suggested some X-rays. The doctor found a troubling spot on his lung, and consulted with some cancer specialists. The oncologists pushed for immediate surgery, but his doctor asked for a biopsy first. While they waited for the results of the biopsy, Stephen and Corky Poulan made plans for how to take care of their family if he were gone or out of work forever. It would change their plans for where they lived, where the kids went to school, everything. Life seemed very grim as they waited for the doctor’s return. As he relates in, It’s All in Your Head: “Then Dr. Dove came into the hospital room and said, ‘Congratulations, you have tuberculosis!’ At that moment, my life turned around. I was given a reprieve. I felt that every day from that point on was a gift from God, sent via Dr. Dove. All the material things Corky and I figured out we stood to lose meant nothing. When we were going over the list, I had thought to myself, I would give them all up to spend another day with my wife and children.”

And from that point on, Pollan was grateful every day, not for what he hoped to have in the future, but what he had in the very present. But you don’t have to go through a cancer scare to experience gratefulness. As a sage once said, “How happy would you be if you lost everything you had…and then got it all back again?”

Research shows that people who actively practice gratefulness are happier. In fact, practicing gratitude is a very unusual discipline, in that it is impossible to feel gratitude and any negative emotion, such as anger, depression, or despair, at the same time. The journey to become a grateful person is not necessarily a natural occurrence. We can take certain actions that cause us to be more grateful, and to exhibit more gratefulness. Since you can’t be grateful and depressed or anxious at the same time, you’ll reach more of your goals. But didn’t we promise you would get healthier too? Leaving aside any potential benefits from lower blood pressure, less stress, and reduced anxiety, get this: it is said people who practice gratefulness began exercising one and a half hours more per week than the control group.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage. For more information, please visit www.hfgwm.com or call 832.585.0110.

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