Two recent studies have concluded that there is a simple and quick way to increase your level of happiness.
No, really. By displaying sincere and wide ranging thanks for whatever you happen to be grateful for makes you happy. How they measure happiness is another issue, but let’s just go with the flow for today. It’s Friday, after all and I plan on getting drunk with some friends tonight.
First up is Kent State’s Dr. Steven Toepfer who used his creative writing class to run an experiment. Snagging volunteers from six different courses, he had students write one letter of thanks to a person in their lives every two weeks. The rules were only that the letter be positive, express gratitude and be ‘nontrivial’ which I would think eliminated any ‘thanks for the pity fuck last week’ letters. Although, ‘trivial’ is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.
Of the students participating ‘only one person said they absolutely hated doing it’. I'm betting it was a dude with mother issues.
According to Toepfer, ‘I saw their happiness increase after each letter, meaning the more they wrote, the better they felt.’ Granted this is a highly subjective research method. That he ‘saw’ increased happiness isn’t exactly scientifically sound, but I get what he’s trying to say. Which is: ‘The most powerful thing in our lives is our social network. It doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t always need to be the life of the party, but just having one or two significant connections in your life has shown to have terrific psychological and physical benefits’.
Toepfer has some backup. With a darker twist. George Mason University’s Todd Kashdan recently published a paper in which he proposes that gratitude indeed is the key to happiness, but men are well behind women when it comes to expressing thanks. Thus males are at a disadvantage when it comes to achieving happiness.
After interviewing college aged and older people, Kashdan found ‘women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts’. Kashdan blames the macho myth that men should suppress their feelings and be the strong, silent type for our disadvantage at achieving true happiness.
‘The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults,’ says Kashdan. ‘Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being’. Apparently, Kashdan hasn't heard of the unwritten rule that the words 'men' and 'softer' should never be used in the same sentence.
While I’m sure that has something to do with males expressing gratitude less then women, I had another thought. Women express gratitude more often because they are presented with gifts more often. It’s the girl who receives the $8000 diamond ring when a couple is engaged. It’s the girl who is the focus when it comes to wedding or shower gifts. It’s the women who is the focus of gifts on Valentine’s Day.
The reason women express more gratitude is because they get more shit.
I’m not complaining, mind you. Men are simple, mostly dimwitted, but entirely self sustaining creatures. If we want something, we’ll go out and buy it. Waiting around for a special occasion is a chump’s chore.
Besides, getting gifts or expressing thanks for those gifts isn’t my greatest pleasure. Giving them is. There is nothing I like more (beer excluded) than getting wifey the PERFECT gift. Her reaction is what makes me happy and content.
If you want to see a truly grateful man, I give you three simple step for the ladies out there.
1: Get man an ice cold beer without him asking
2: Blow job
3: NFL or March Madness
Combine those three at the same time and I'll fucking express enough gratitude to last a life time.
I know! This is more than just receiving gifts. It’s about how certain people have helped you in the past, how someone has positively influenced you. But, again, this is not a male tendency. We have a habit of helping ourselves. Yes, we are mentored along the way, but we are hardwired into believing that we create our own luck. That hard work and diligence is what rewards us.
Men believe – correctly or not – that they are masters of their own destiny. It's not socialization that prevents us from gratitude, it's our own stupid egos.
I’m sure that socialization has something to do with it, but at this point in our evolution pure biological drive can’t be discounted, either. A man’s DNA contains centuries upon centuries of the hunting gene. That if we want something done right we should do it ourselves. We’d rather feel pride in our own work than be thankful for someone else doing it for us.
Besides, there is another key factor that makes men inherently less happy than women: We have to deal with women!
Oh, I’m only kidding.
Today’s distraction: The same thing I’ll be doing the rest of the day. Watching my bracket’s go down the toilet. Around and around they go, then POOF! All gone. Along with my money. Love March Madness even if I don’t win any cash. It just helps.