A client recently bought an expensive new car. He hasn't been the same since. He's been ranting about how expensive it is, how he shouldn't have spent so much, and on and on. I asked him about what type of options he put into it and he angrily spewed, "A - - - king navi system."

A navigation system? Who spends thousands on an in-dashboard GPS navigation system these days when our cell phones have the easiest and most reliable built right in. My friend, of course, has a cell phone, but has lost his mind. His navigation system isn't taking him where he was hoping it would take him --to the land of happiness.

Some GPS system he overspent on! I’ll rely on mine: Gratitude, Positivity and Sensitivity.

The word gratitude is based in the Latin word, gratia, meaning grace, graciousness or gratefulness. It’s that under-rated and under-utlized thankful appreciation for the good we receive in life, whether from our own efforts or from other people or a higher power. Super-star gratitude-dudes know to allow that same feeling of thankfulness to grow within them for those things, events, people and circumstances that don’t look all that good, that are real challenges and discomforts in life, as well. We never really know the purpose of why something happens.

The gratitude personality I strive for is one that recognizes there are no “no’s” in life—only a “yes” to be discovered perhaps at another time and in another place.

Recent research has pointed to gratitude as an elixir of mental and physical health, alertness and happiness. No “navi” system has yet figured out how to direct a driver to happiness but gratitude seems to be the “forgotten factor” in getting to happiness. At least that’s what psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough call it in their happiness research.

Cicero observed, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Hmmm, he didn't mention an expensive navigation system to get there did he? Did they even have Ferrari's in Cicero's time?

Want to sleep better? Want to exercise more? Want to reduce stress, anger, anxiety and depression? Want to recover from traumatic events more quickly? Want to enjoy the simple things in life instead of focusing on what you don’t have that others do? Want to have a healthier set of priorities? Want to bring joy into the lives of others along with yourself? Need to recalibrate your negative thinking?

Start creating that thankful approach to every person, every circumstance, every place, everything in your life. Write down, on a regular basis, what you feel most grateful for, what you have gratitude for. Research at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, tells us that your happiness will grow more from this, than from many other interventions measured.

Remember that gratitude is not just a feeling. It’s an action. Here are my top five actions you can take to cultivate this “forgotten factor” of gratitude and fire up your own GPS system:

1. Never miss an opportunity to say “thank–you”—preferably IRL—it’ll connect you to others in a positive way. To paraphrase, if “thank you” is the only prayer you say, it’ll suffice. Smile at the first 10 people you see every morning.
2. Meditate. If that sounds too “heavy” then at least think about people, places, things and events on a regular basis, that you can create the feeling of gratitude for--past and present. What can go right today? What did go right? Don't think anything has or will? Then meditate more. Meditation trumps medication.
3. Post up gratitude-growing sayings, phrases, posters, and prayers around your home and. if you can, in your workplace as well.
4. Recognize the good in everything. That’s right. Look for it. It’s there. Find a way to “paint adversity into a lovely picture” (Kak Sri’s observation).
5. No matter what you don’t have, do not feel sorry for yourself! It’s enough you are alive! Repeat after me, “This too is for the good!” Say it often.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

He provides behavior science coaching for sustainable strategic outcomes, in mindful, values driven and positively adaptive ways to business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, individuals, families and fitness organizations to reach new breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives.

Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa,, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He travels the world speaking with fitness and health professionals to provide the most current thinking and tools for behavior change.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff.” He is listed is listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”

Please connect with Michael on Twitter: @FitnessPsych & @DrSanDiego
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.mantell
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichaelmantell