This is not your ordinary “Let’s be grateful – it’s thanksgiving time” blog. It’s about gratitude but not the kind that says, “Once a year we should say a blessing at dinner.” At first the following ideas might sound a bit flaky, yet I think you will be grateful you read this.
Recent research has found that thoughts of gratitude are good for us in many ways. It slowly changes our attitude for the better. Performing simple gratitude exercises like writing thank you notes, keeping a gratitude journal or finding ways to pay it forward increases well being and reduces depression. For example, adults who keep gratitude journals show a greater increase in determination, attention, better sleep and more energy than those who don’t.
Realizing that others have it worse off is not gratitude. True gratitude is realizing the positive aspects in our lives. It is not a comparison. For the effects of gratitude to reap the most benefit, we first have to recognize it and then the next step is actually expressing appreciation.
First, a word about recognizing it. Let’s say we’re having a bad day, difficulty at work, or a fight with our spouse or good friend, stuck in traffic, late for a meeting. Gratitude doesn’t mean these things didn’t happen and let’s play Pollyanna about life. It does mean there is still so much good in our life that goes unrecognized every day. Have you thought about being grateful for toothpaste, your eyesight even if it’s not so great? How about the shoes on your feet, windshield wipers or popcorn? But let’s revisit for a minute that bad day you just had. Can we be grateful for the opportunity to become more patient, more accepting, be just a bit more humble?
And now what? How will we live in gratitude and express our gratitude? We could easily keep a gratitude journal and write down three things we are grateful every day and not repeat ourselves. We need to be grateful for gratitude. It does so much for others and us.
-Barbara Kennedy, OSM, LPC