On Thanksgiving, the point of focus is (or should be) gratitude.
What exactly is it?
Gratitude is defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful” and “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.
Why should I practice the attitude of gratitude?
Gratitude allows us to stop focusing on what our lives might be lacking, and instead focus on our abundance. By practicing gratitude, we can affirm that there is goodness in the world and acknowledge that much of that goodness comes from other people, and/or (depending on your beliefs) a higher power. Knowing this encourages us to appreciate, and to “pay it forward”.
Many studies have documented social, physical and psychological benefits of gratitude, including:
- increased happiness and life satisfaction
- boosted feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and other positive emotions
- reduction of anxiety and depression
- strengthened immune system
- lowered blood pressure
- reduced symptoms of illness, aches and pains
- better quality sleep
- increased emotional resilience (ex. recovering from PTSD)
- strengthened relationships
- greater willingness to be helpful, altruistic and compassionate
Easier said than done …
It all sounds wonderful, but what about for the natural pessimists? How can I be grateful for everything when I don’t always feel that way?
It is true. Adopting the attitude is easier said than done for many people; which is why it’s known as a “practice”. Gratitude is a learned skill that you can improve with practice. There are countless books, studies and articles that teach you what steps to take in order to become a truly grateful person. One of my favorites is Learned Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman. He discusses breaking unhealthy habits and changing them into positive ones. Another is The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. This New York Times Bestseller brings you on a smart and entertaining journey to appreciating what you have. Search around and find one that works for you – you won’t regret it! And in no time, it will become easy.