In college, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Denmark for a semester (which was prompted by an earlier wonderful semester studying abroad in Hungary). Denmark held a lot of mystique to me before I lived there, being that it has been regularly ranked as the happiest country in the world (or at least one of the happiest).
Who doesn’t want to be happier? I even took a class about the psychology of happiness while I was in Denmark. And here’s the secret that I learned about how to be happier: be grateful.
Gratitude is a muscle. We can all exercise this muscle more. When I read reports of people on Flyertalk acting all DYKWIA and think about what happened recently on Asiana 214, I just think that people could try to be more grateful when they arrive safely at their destination and not worry so much about the littler things. They’d be happier with themselves and less annoying to others.
When I fly, even in coach, I’m always a bit giddy, because it’s like, “holy shit, I’m in a giant metal tube that somehow gets off the ground and takes me somewhere far away so quickly compared to other modes of travel! this is fucking awesome!” It’s maybe not glamorous to fly in coach, but I’m grateful that air travel is accessible to so many more people nowadays, and in spite of recent events, it’s still an incredibly safe way to travel.
In general, I’m a very happy person, and I attribute that largely to gratitude. I wasn’t always good at gratitude, but during my time in Denmark, I learned to cultivate gratitude, and it’s changed my life for the better.
Here’s a seemingly silly exercise that actually works: keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down three things that you’re grateful for. They should be specific things, not platitudes (e.g. write something like, “I’m grateful that David helped me out on a project at work” or “I’m grateful that I ran into my friend Dana on the street today”, rather than generic things like, “I’m grateful for my family and friends”). Try it out for two weeks, and see if you feel a difference.