It’s the traditional day to think about gratitude. After running Turkey Trots and before the stuffing and pumpkin pie, we usually take a moment to say what it is we’re thankful for. But gratitude doesn’t have to be a one-day a year attitude. Thanksgiving can serve as the kick start to living our lives with more daily gratitude. Not sure where to focus? Here are three points of view to start with as you digest your turkey dinners:
From one of my favorite sites to peruse on the Internet, Zen Habits, comes a post on why living a life of gratitude can make you happy. Author Leo Babauta describes his two-minute morning gratitude sessions. He tries to take a few minutes at the start of the day to think about who and what he’s grateful for. Why does this make him happy? It reminds him of the good things in his life and what’s important. It helps reframe the negatives into positives and gives him an opportunity to thank people in his life. Not a bad way to start the day.
Dr. Wayne Dyer made me rethink my knee-jerk reaction to athletes and entertainers who thank God immediately after a win. While I sometimes question how genuine the expression is, Dyer reminded me that there is power in thanking the force in the universe which opens up opportunity and offers support to our dreams. “If we practice gratitude as opposed to maintaining an attitude of entitlement, we’ll automatically extend inspiration wherever we go.” That’s something to think about over my piece of apple pie. I live my faith quietly and privately, but a greater sense of gratitude reduces my sulking sense of entitlement. I can move away from wondering “why me?” and embrace challenges instead.
Those looking for a scientific approach need only pick up the November issue of The Harvard Mental Health Letter. The piece, In Praise of Gratitude, highlights several studies that have looked at links among happiness, health and gratitude. One of the researchers cited includes The Emmons Lab at UC-Davis which has conducted long-term research on gratitude. Among their findings, those who kept a gratitude journal on a weekly basis “exercised more regularly … 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.”