Happiness equals Gratitude divided by Gratification.

November 26, 2020

Happiness equals Gratitude divided by Gratification.

May 29, 2023

I probably don’t need to tell you that this is a strange Thanksgiving. Far fewer of us are seeing family and friends today. Some of us will raise our glasses and share out thanks on Zoom or by phone. I thought it was a good time for a little emotional math.

Rabbi Hyman Schachtel’s 1954 book, “The Real Enjoyment of Living,” offered this piece of wisdom: “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have.”

You might ask what’s the difference? Researchers examined 12 million personal blogs to determine the shifting meaning of happiness and, more precisely, what other feelings tend to coexist with happiness. Number one on the list was “contentment.” In fact, the majority of the lists contained emotions related to feeling appreciative, peaceful, or glad about one’s state in life—all states of “living” that would fit into the “wanting what you have” camp.

A much smaller number fit into the “having what you want” or “gratification” category. Younger people tend to associate happiness more with excitement and the future, while older people tend to associate happiness with peacefulness in the present. Many of us are constantly on the hedonic treadmill pursuing gratification, success, and happiness. And just when we attain what we want, there’s a new shiny object to distract us.

On this special day, maybe we should take the advice of the French novelist Colette, who wrote, “What a wonderful life I had! I only wish I had realized it sooner.” In other words, happiness surrounds us even when it eludes us (as maybe it might appear this year). We need to recognize that our life—even in quarantine—is full of precious gifts whose value is often neglected until they’re gone.

I am thinking today of all the friends and family, near and far, who have played such a role in my life, whose love and support have helped shape me into who I am today. I hold a special place in my heart for all of you, and for the love, beauty, and wisdom you have brought into my life. And no pandemic will ever take that away.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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