Isn’t it amazing we have a holiday that is set aside to be thankful for the abundance in our lives? I love Thanksgiving for just that reason. We celebrate family and the things we are thankful for. No craziness, no buying sprees….just gratitude. It’s become my favorite holiday over the last few years.
In 2001, I wanted to experience gratitude. I had been reading The Artist’s Way. I was reading about the many ways to bring abundance into your life. One way was to write in a “gratitude journal”. So, I began to write in one. However, after 2 or 3 weeks I stopped. I kept being grateful for the same things every time I wrote. Even though I was very appreciative and thankful for my life, I didn’t get gratitude quite yet. I wasn’t ready.
So now, 10 years later, I’m contemplating gratitude again. I know it’s easy to feel gratitude when everything is going your way. What is difficult is to find gratitude during the hard times. I realize that I don’t want to wait for something like cancer to happen or a family tragedy to feel gratitude for the life I have.
Many of us are thankful for the things in our life. Last September I wrote a post about gratitude with inspirational quotes. In this post I contemplated the difference between thankfulness and gratitude:
“Gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is an expression of happiness. Being thankful is telling someone you appreciate what they have done. Being thankful is being glad it didn’t rain on picnic day. Being thankful is happiness from a gift.
Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. To feel gratitude towards the bad things that have happened to us knowing that will lead you a new opportunity.”
There are many benefits to practicing gratitude:
• You will experience peace of mind and more optimism, suffer less stress, be more satisfied with life, less materialistic, often feel more spiritual, regardless of religion.
• It’s great for your family or children to see your positive attitude and that you appreciate the little things. Did you know that everyday you’re teaching your children to be good parents? Did you know that they will copy your behavior as adults? A study showed that “children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families” (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). Last year at our preschool we had “Nice Wednesday” where everyone complimented each other. You should have seen them smile when they got compliments, even though they thought it was like a game. They still felt warm and loved.
• Gratitude is great for all relationships. Feeling gratitude for friends, family or business associates makes your relationship stronger. It may seem like a simple thing but saying thank you really makes everyone feel better! You can be general about your thank you or quite specific.
• There are physical benefits. Grateful people tend to exercise more and experience better health. Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons conducted an experimental comparison. Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
How does one practice gratitude? It seems so simple yet just as a negative thought can strongly influence your day’s mood, so can a positive feeling of gratitude affect your day.
Here’s what I suggest:
1. First, start off with being grateful for your family. Think of all their wonderful traits. How do they make you smile? What are the little things they do for you? What can you do for them?
2. Next, be grateful for the little things. I’m grateful the sun came up this morning. I’m grateful for the blue sky, for hot, delicious coffee. I’m grateful to love my job and the people there. Be mindful of all the little things around you. A spider web, a warm blanket. You have such abundance in your life! Did you know that?
3. While the gratitude journal didn’t work for me 10 years ago, I’m going to try this again, writing three to five things a day that I’m grateful for using mindfulness as a tool. I have a pretty journal and a wonderful pen to write down each reason.
4. Now the most difficult part. Can you have gratitude for the difficulties in life? We all hear about people who eventually feel gratitude for tragedy like cancer in their lives because it’s made them look at life differently. Can you try to feel it about the little things like traffic, bad weather or financial problems?
5. Have fun with it! Gratitude is such a positive emotions. It will seep into all areas of your life.
I feel great gratitude for all of you readers out there! Thanks for being part of my dream to be a writer and help others.
For what do you feel gratitude? How do you experience it?
“ThanksGiving is good but ThanksLiving is better.”
* Photo credit: Marianne Hale Designs
* Photo credit: Marianne Hale Designs