Dr Lauren Tober has a theory. She thinks that we would all be more fulfilled if we spent less time looking for what’s missing and more time appreciating what we already have.
The 37 year old clinical psychologist says that in today’s “more more more” world, we spend a lot of our time focusing on where we’re going and what we want to get. “Often, what I hear is that people have everything, they have the great house, the great career, the great kids, the great partner – but they’re still not happy,” she explains.
The need to search for the missing piece of the puzzle is a driving force for many, but the constant hunt for the next big thing could be taking us further away from personal satisfaction. As Tober notes; “We can get so caught up in looking for what’s next that we forget to appreciate what is already really good about our lives.”
But, according to Tober, there is a simple antidote; gratitude. “Instead of looking for what’s missing, start taking the time to appreciate what you already have,” she says.
While expressing gratitude might sound like a ‘new age’ idea, there is plenty of scientific research that shows it’s a practice that’s good for you. In fact, there is evidence that gratitude can improve almost every area of your life from relationships to self-esteem. Becoming grateful is even good for your health.
A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Difference found that people who routinely express their gratitude experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people.
In addition to this, a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology found that people who started jotting down the things they were thankful for in a gratitude journal slept better and longer than they did before.
So how do you go about expressing gratitude? Gratitude lists or journals have become popular recently and there are even a number of gratitude diaries on the market complete with prompts. Some people like to meditate on their daily gratitude, or count lists on their fingers.
For Tober though, taking photographs of the things she is grateful for felt like the best approach.
“I’m a very visual person so it seemed natural to take pictures,” she says.
Tober started sharing her gratitude photographs on social media site Instagram and began to inspire others to do the same.
Over the last few years a community of like-minded people has grown and evolved into the #capturinggratitude project, a place where people take photos of the things they’re grateful for and share them in an online community.
The aim of the project is to increase world happiness by shifting focus from what we want to what we already have. “It sounds like such a simple thing,” says Tober, “but it is so powerful.”