By NATALY KOGAN
For most of my life, I clung to the belief that I wasn’t happy because I “just wasn’t wired that way.” At 13 years old, I escaped with my parents from the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States. There’s a saying that Russians are good at three things: suffering, making others suffer, and complaining about suffering. It would be funny, if I didn’t also think it was true. As a Russian Jewish immigrant, suffering had always been something I was good at.
Until a few years ago, my “grin and bear it” mentality stopped working. On the outside, I had achieved much success — a great career, loving family. But on the inside, stress, anxiety, and self-doubt overwhelmed me. I wasn’t present for my family and wasn’t doing my best at work. I lived with a near-constant feeling of dread.
Almost by accident I discovered dozens of studies that linked happiness to practising gratitude. Being a cynic, initially I thought they were ridiculous. But research by leading psychologists from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania showed that consistently practising gratitude — writing down several things you’re grateful for every day or expressing thanks to others — improved both emotional well-being and health.