Thanksgiving seems to be the time of year when you discuss and acknowledge all those things and people that are important and meaningful to you.
Yet the simple feeling of gratitude is a powerful one for any of time of year.
Research has shown that the regular practice of expressing gratitude is closely tied to experiencing happiness and fulfillment in life. Right now before the Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to begin to fit gratitude into your life on an ongoing basis.
One definition of gratitude is –
“a sense of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift”.
Remembering that the gift can be an actual object or something as fleeting as a smile or the sight of beauty in the world, it becomes apparent that gratitude is a positive feeling of being blessed or even lucky.
At its simplest, gratitude is a sense of wonder and appreciation for life…
It is a delight for and a savoring of the ordinary.
It is the ability to notice the gifts you receive.
Many of us who have survived life-threatening illnesses or other tragedies can easily see the gift in each breath we take, in the passing of the seasons and in the wagging of a dog’s tail.
Gratitude is returning to a childlike response to whatever occurs for you as you go about your day.
The sense of gratitude can also be developed.
I have a Thanksgiving tradition that came from a client many years ago. The client, Maria, was talking to me about her struggles over the past year and how she was looking towards Thanksgiving with a sense of dread and bitterness.
She was struggling with the entire idea of being thankful for anything. She was determined to turn this attitude around though and together we devised a simple exercise.
Maria thought back over her difficult year and realized that there were several people who had given her “gifts” of support, encouragement, and helpful ideas.
She decided to express her gratitude to each of these people over the course of Thanksgiving week. Some she would see in person; others would receive phone calls.
Maria allowed the expression of her gratitude to become a gift to those who had helped her and to herself. I’m not sure about Maria, but I was so moved that I carry on the tradition to this day.
Another powerful way of letting gratitude into your life is a daily practice.
At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to reflect on your day. Keep a journal for this and write down daily at least three things from the day for which you are grateful.
It’s so simple to be negative when you’ve had a hard day or just feel “ho hum” about a regular day. But when you make a practice of searching for the small gifts in the day, it changes your perspective of the world.
This gratitude exercise can be so powerful that I have done it for long stretches of time when I needed some attitude adjustment and it really helped.
Here are some more specific ideas for encouraging gratitude in yourself:
– allow a few minutes every day for reflection and contemplation.
– focus on positive experiences as they occur and learn to savor them.
– avoid comparisons with other people.
– don’t glorify the past.
– guard against thoughts of entitlement.
– avoid taking things for granted.
– allow yourself to receive graciously and with dignity.
As the holiday season continues, I hope you will make a commitment to notice the many “gifts” you receive each and every day.
Let the gratitude flow in and notice the increase in your optimism, alertness, and enthusiasm!
Think about what you are most grateful for today and let us know in the comments. Or what has been getting in the way of your feeling gratitude or expressing it? Let us hear from you.