All seasoned activists know that the journey toward justice is a long one indeed, and that we need to take care of ourselves in order to avoid burnout. At the same time, we only have one life to live, and I for one do not wish to allow the turmoil and darkness swirling about us to steal my joy. How fortunate, then, that so many of the tools identified by positive psychology and the science of happiness as having the proven capacity to make us feel better individually also are valuable to us in our work to make the world a better place.

Not the least of these tools is gratitude. I know from personal experience – some of which I’ll share at the “Gratitude for a Happier, Healthier, Better You” workshop at PJC on Saturday, March 3rd – that gratitude can help turn a traumatic event into a positive learning experience.  That in turn allows me to bounce back faster, and get back on track with my social justice work. In other words, gratitude builds the kind resilience we need to be happy and do our work.

Personal experience is a great teacher, but it’s also great to see science backing up this and many other benefits of gratitude as well.  Last August, for example, researchers Christina Armenta and Sonja Lyubomirsky published some of their findings in an article entiteld, “How Gratitude Motivates Us to Become Better People.” The researches asked, “Does gratitude lead to complacency? Do all those benefits of gratitude come at a price—laziness, apathy, and the acceptance of inequities?

“Based on research conducted over the past two decades, and recent findings from our lab at UC Riverside, we believe that the answer is no. In fact, we have found that gratitude is not just a pleasant, passive emotion but rather an activating, energizing force that may lead us to pursue our goals and become better, more socially engaged people.”

Then just this week, a new article popped up on the Daily Good website: “How Can Our Gratitude Contritube to World Peace?” by Kerry Howells. Howells brings philosophy along with science into the discussion in her beautiful and moving article which concludes with this observation: “At the core of most wars and atrocities is the resentment we hold in our hearts. Our reflection on how we could do things differently next time, not only steers us back towards gratitude and personal integrity, but is a crucial step towards world peace. We are taking radical responsibility. Our own gratitude can make a difference.”

Learning more about the why’s and how’s of gratitude can make you a happier, healthier person. And it can move us all a little bit closer to peace. That’s why I’m leading this workshop, and that’s why I hope you’ll join us.

-Ginny Sassaman

Ginny Sassaman is a co-founder and currently president of Gross National Happiness USA (GNHUSA) as well as creator of the Happiness Paradigm. She has a Masters in mediation and facilitation, and a certificate in positive psychology. She has been coaching and leading classes and workshops on various aspects of human well-being — from conflict resolution to mindfulness and other happiness tools — since 2007.

Click here to register for Gratitude for a Happier, Healthier, Better You, on Saturday, March 3, 10 – noon at the Peace & Justice Center, Burlington. Fees vary. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.