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Neil Pasricha

March 1, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

A Game of Gratitudes Can Help Your Happiness

A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha is “a pied piper of happiness”* who dazzles audiences with ideas and frameworks that skyrocket happiness into the stratosphere. With infectious enthusiasm, heartfelt authenticity, and a “what works” authority, Neil draws on the latest research in happiness to increase individual performance and create a more positive and productive workplace. In this recent column for The Toronto Star, Neil explains how happiness aligns with gratitude:

Guess what?

If you can be happy with simple things then it will be simple to be happy.

Back in 2003, researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough asked groups of students to write down five gratitudes, five hassles or five events that happened over the past week for 10 straight weeks. What happened? The students who wrote five gratitudes were happier and physically healthier than the other two test groups.

I’ve given speeches sharing this research for a while but I was always left with a nagging question. What if you simply don’t have the willpower to write down five gratitudes? I hope you do. I hope I do! But what if you don’t?

Well, today I want to share a little game my wife and I play at the end of the night just before we turn off the lights. It’s called Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud.

Rose — what was a highlight from the day? My wife shares something for which she’s grateful. A highlight. First thing that pops to mind! “When our son ran up to see me after preschool,” “the half hour of silence I got when both kids were napping,” “I found construction paper in the basement for a craft before dinner.” Can you tell she’s a busy mom? And then after she says a rose, I say one back to her from my day. “Getting to write for smart and attractive Toronto Star readers.” You get the idea.

Rose — then what? We do it a second time. Another rose from her, another rose from me. For those doing the math at home that’s four gratitudes generally in less than a minute here. Remember: the research shows you only need five a week. What’s next?

Thorn — what didn’t go well today? Nobody is endlessly positive. It’s important to be heard. It’s important to be listened to. This is a chance to show empathy and compassion while letting your partner get something off their chest. And then we close with a …

Bud — what are you looking forward to? It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be 20 years down the road. “Brunch with my sister on Saturday,” “when that new Chipotle finally opens” or “the moment next summer when we’re able to canoe into perfectly silent water during sunrise.” The last thought is a little dream of something to come.

What does Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud do in practice?

Well, as long as the Thorn doesn’t become a 45-minute argument, it’s a perfect two-minute exercise to grab four gratitudes right before bed. Remember: you only need five a week. So playing this game even two or three times in your week helps you focus your mind.

Charles Dickens put it well: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Neil Pasricha/Toronto Star/March, 2017