Gratitude is the Gateway to Happiness

I don’t know about you, but my horse makes me happy! And I think for most horse lovers this statement feels true: horses are the gateway to happiness.

Just being close to a horse can give you an immediate pang of happiness and I would venture to guess that you feel pretty grateful to have horses in your life.

So, on an intuitive basis you already know that happiness and gratitude go hand in hand!

But most often we think of feeling grateful because we are happy about something, about an event or circumstance.

However: ancient philosophers have long postulated that it is the other way around: gratitude makes us happy, and modern scientists increasingly agree that this is true.

Studies have shown, for example, that just 5 minutes spent journaling about what you are grateful for every day, can make you a happier person (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).

Not only that: research has also shown that cultivating a gratitude practice can “a strong positive impact on psychological wellbeing” Chih-Che Lin (2017), increase self-esteem (Rash, Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011) and improve the quality of our relationships (Algoe, Fredrickson, & Gable, 2013).

But: if you are feeling unhappy all you have to do is go out to see your horse run your hand over his soft muzzle or stroke her neck…and you are happy!

That is definitely true.

But on the flip side of that, studies have also shown that horses ‘read’ our emotions (Troesch et al. 2019) and mirror them (Ellen S. Kaye Gehrke, PhD and the Institute of HeartMath).

So basically: we have a tremendous opportunity to improve how we feel about life and ourselves as well as the quality of our relationships by adopting a gratitude practice.

Now: I know this about life with horses: very often we ‘use’ our horses as our escape, our happy-maker and place where we can let our guard down.

And there is nothing wrong with that! There will always be days when sitting in your horse’s stall crying feels like the best therapy in the world.

But it begs the question of relationship and partnership and give and take.

As Neal Donald Walsch says: give what you want to receive.

What if (maybe not every day but more often) we could bring happiness to our horses, rather than expecting them to make us happy?

Seems like a no brainer, right?

And the cool thing is: adopting a gratitude practice does not require a ton of time or elaborate rituals. A few minutes spent keeping a gratitude journal, expressing appreciation to loved ones, or simply taking a moment to savor life’s simple pleasures: there are countless ways to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives.


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