Wednesday, 25 November 2015
by Erin McAllister, Paralegal
Thanksgiving is the beginning of what is commonly known as the “Holiday Season”. It might seem fitting that the beginning of the holiday season is a day that was set aside to express gratitude. This year, how many of us will take a moment to show gratitude or reflect on where we are in life and what we have, before digging into the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie?
The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a catastrophic year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.
Perhaps it was easier for the people who came before us to take a moment and reflect on their gifts and bounties. Maybe it was easier for them to see and express gratitude than it is for us. But it is precisely because showing gratitude is a difficult thing for us to do, that we should make every effort to express the gratitude we feel. A wise man once said that “gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.”
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Researchers have discovered that people who experience the most gratitude tend to:
- Feel a sense of abundance in their lives
- Appreciate the contributions of others to their well-being
- Recognize and enjoy life's small pleasures
- Acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude
- Know how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude
First of all, gratitude is good for you. Psychologically, it brings you optimism and life satisfaction. But beyond your mood, it’s also good for your body. Numerous studies have suggested that gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, encourages you to exercise more and sleep better. Second, it improves your relationships when you see and appreciate how others contribute to your well-being.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.
Crisis can make us more grateful, but research says gratitude also helps us cope with crisis. Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. The contrast between suffering and redemption serves as a tip for practicing gratitude: remember the bad.
It works this way: Think of the worst times in your life, your sorrows, your losses, your sadness, and then remember that here you are, able to remember them, that you made it through the worst times of your life, you got through the trauma, you got through the trial, you endured the temptation, you’re making your way out of the dark. Remember the bad things, then look to see where you are now.
How do you start to show gratitude and get some of the positive effects into your life? Try some of these suggestions:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. At the beginning or end of your day take a moment to reflect on the things that happened that you can be grateful for.
2. Remember where you came from and where you are going.
3. Ask three questions –
- What have I received?
- What have I given?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused?
4. Sometimes offer up a prayer of gratitude, no requests just gratitude for all you have.
5. Thank someone mentally. It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
6. Use visual reminders. Forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness are a problem for all of us. A beautiful picture, a pithy quote can help you to ground yourself in gratitude.
7. Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment. Focus on what you’re grateful for.
8. Use language that fosters gratitude for others, your situation and what you can learn from it.
As Melodie Beattie said: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.” Being grateful is a simple expression that can make significant changes to your life in a variety of ways. It can bring you optimism and life satisfaction. You may reap physical rewards and recognize the connections you have with others, the world and a higher being. Gratitude can lead to living with more mindfulness and openness to all that awaits.
This information is made available by Spaulding Law for educational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Spaulding Law, unless you have entered into a separate representation agreement. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.