The Power of Being a Thankful Person
When Amy Paulson was growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., people would often stop her on the street with her mom and dad to remark on how lucky she was that her family had adopted her. (Paulson, now based in San Francisco, was abandoned in a police station in Seoul when she was a day old and spent her first three months in an orphanage.) “I always thought, Why should I be more thankful to my parents than the next person?” she says.
In 2011, however, Paulson reconnected with her birth mother in South Korea, her adoptive mom by her side. “My Korean mother took my American mother’s hands in her and said, ‘Thank you.’ After that, my whole world changed,” Paulson says. At the time, she was working in the e-commerce sector and struggling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. Reconnecting with her birth family, however, made her feel like the luckiest person in the world—and she wanted to actively share her good fortune. That year, she quit her job and co-founded the Global Gratitude Alliance, which partners with grassroots organizations to create community-led solutions for social and economic change.
Since then, a reflexive sense of thankfulness has become Paulson’s frame of reference for work, relationships and daily life in general.
That all-encompassing approach can make you happier and healthier, says Louisa Jewell, founder and president of the Toronto-based Canadian Positive Psychology Association, a non-profit dedicated to well-being. Some call it “spontaneous” gratitude, others describe it as “casual”; either way, it’s more than an occasional feeling of appreciation when something goes right. This attitude, says Jewell, “can become a lens through which you can see the world, which is different than just saying thank you to someone.”