From the time we are toddlers, we’re reminded to “say thank you!” But it’s not until decades later that most of us learn that true gratitude is not a statement of thanks, but rather a state of thankfulness. It is an attitude of abundance that gets us through better or worse, sickness and health, and miraculously keeps our heads above the water of life’s rising tide. For that reason, Thanksgiving should be more than simply a reenactment of a historical dinner party, it should be a recognition – of life’s great abundance, even when there’s not a 20-pound turkey on the table.
Be grateful today keep the doctor away
When you find yourself running low on optimism and resilience, filling up on gratitude may be the best booster shot that money can’t buy. And while gratitude may not be FDA approved, that hasn’t stopped medical professionals from taking note of its surprising effectiveness.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, found that gratitude effectively boosts happiness while reducing negative emotions such as depression, resentment, regret, and frustration. It’s a veritable multi-vitamin against some of the most common emotional dragnets. The Journal of Psychiatry also published numerous studies detailing the benefits of appreciation and its link to wellbeing. In a 2003 gratitude study, the act of appreciation was shown to foster resilience and mental strength, following such traumatic events including the terrorist attacks on September 11.
Suggestions for a daily dose of gratitude:
Gratitude is one part practice and two parts presence. Selecting a particular habit and creating structure around that habit is only one piece of the pie. Commit to a regular practice but remember that you’re shifting your personal philosophy and building those kind of spiritual muscles takes both patience and presence.
Here are some creative gratitude practices to get you started:
- Give thanks for the mundane
- Before falling asleep, ask your spouse “what was the best part of your day?” and then share your answer to the same question
- Go out of your way to unexpectedly thank a service person or coworker
- Every day, journal about one person in your life and one positive lesson he or she taught you
- Hang a monthly calendar on the wall and write one blessing in each box daily
- Spend time in meditation or prayer and give thanks to a higher power
- Write a thank-you note to someone in your life (send it or store it away)
How to make your gratitude list
We write letters to Santa detailing the gifts we hope to get, but it comes far less natural for us to itemize the gifts we’ve already received. If you’re a gratitude novice, physically writing out a gratitude journal or cosmic thank-you notes can be an excellent way to get started. Chances are you’ll begin like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music listing her favorite things – raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but you may also find it difficult to find inspiration.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky states that only 10 percent of individual happiness is governed by life circumstances. That means that when it comes to dolling out delight, what we do and how we think are more important than what we have and where we are. When it comes time to make your gratitude list, everything is in the eyes of the beholder and you may have to learn how to widen your view.
After all, only you know the context and content of your life. While one woman gives thanks for her second Maserati, another gives thanks to the way her husband gives her the fluffiest pillow every night. Search the tangibles and intangibles, open your eyes to see what you have and close your eyes to notice what you feel. Sometimes the most spectacular gifts don’t show up at first glance.
Don’t expect baby cherubs. But get started anyway.
A close friend of mine has a way of debunking life’s supposed milestones by reminding me that, while the moment will be glorious, skies will not part and angelic baby cherubs will not trumpet my triumph. It’s a sweet way of reminding me to keep my expectations realistic and accept that success is often slow, steady, and silent. Gratitude is the same way.
During your first days you may feel the clumsiness of getting to know gratitude – like an awkward first date when you’re not sure who will be footing the bill. Or you may be over zealous in your approach and scare gratitude off by making a list of your 1,001 favorite things.
Go gently. Gratitude is like a stray cat, it wants your affection but the more frantically you chase after it the faster it will run away. Incorporate thankfulness into your morning routine, bring it with you on your daily commute, you can even invite it to your Thanksgiving table – gratitude is a dinner guest you’ll be glad to have stick around.
Madeline Blasberg helps brands make noise by creating content that wins hearts, minds, and measurable results. She takes on the task of finding the right words so that you can get back to the business of running your business.
As a seasoned copywriter, content marketer, and journalist, Madeline is a wordsmith who knows the ins and outs of the digital arena. Whether it’s an ad campaign, article, website, eBook, or newsletter, she packs and ships your brand message in a way that’s true to your voice and persuasive without being pushy.