The gift that keeps on giving
As Thanksgiving edges closer, we may have more to be appreciative for this year. While some feel overwhelmed and lost with the state of the world these days, there’s a built-in aspect to Thanksgiving for being grateful. Gratitude is the acknowledgment of the palpable and the intangible goodness people experience in their lives. In this context, we recognize the sources of goodness partially lies outside ourselves. Being grateful helps us connect to larger entities than ourselves whether it be others, nature, or higher power.
We can harness the empowerment and happiness gratitude brings. Gratitude helps us feel positive emotions, deal effectively with adversity, build stronger relationships, and improve health. We feel and express gratitude in various and personal ways. It can apply to positive memories and past blessings, to the present by not taking good fortune for granted, and to the future by maintaining hope and optimism. Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a personal trait we develop and nurture ongoingly.
Gratitude, as a social construct, is extensively studied and although research can’t definitively prove cause-and-effect regarding happiness, most published studies do support an association between gratitude and well-being. What drives gratitude is simple: appreciating what we have instead of reaching for something new and different that we think will make us happier or believing we won’t be content until every physical and material need is met. It may seem contrived but with practice and conviction, the ability to be grateful grows stronger.
So, how to begin being consistently thankful instead of once a year on a special holiday? Here are some ideas:
- Writing thank you notes instead of sending a convenient email or text message implies the personal effort of someone who takes the time to say ‘thanks’ in the time-honoured way of longhand writing; however, any show of thoughtful gratitude is better than none.
- Get into the good habit of gratitude journaling by writing daily entries about what thought, action, or event made you thankful for that day. Doing this for a month has been shown to improve overall mental health and suddenly, a good habit emerges.
- Thank someone mentally if time and communication aren’t possible at that moment. It’ll help to simply think about someone who’s helped or did something nice for you. Counting your blessings through reflecting and writing are ways to re-experience and understand the good feeling.
- Meditation helps focus on the present moment without judging. The emphasis is on what you’re grateful for – anything goes, like your skills and talents, the company of others, or just having another day to live your life.
How much better would our emotional health be if only we were more grateful? Consider gratitude an extraordinary gift you bestow onto others and yourself. It’ll keep on giving.
By the way … thank you for reading this.