Gratitude Goes beyond Thanksgiving
This is Thanksgiving week...for what will you give thanks?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness. Harvard Medical School writes, "The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude encompasses all of these. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you receive...tangible or intangible.
According to the Greater Good Science Center, "Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It helps us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we're less likely to take it for granted. Gratitude allows us to celebrate goodness.”
So...what does gratitude and celebrating goodness actually do for us? Consider your mental and physical wellness, your past and current stress, trauma, adversity, and suffering. How do we feel, act, and treat others when our perspective is carved out by negative life events? Instead of focusing on our stress and anxiety, today, try focusing your thoughts and actions on appreciating the things and people in your life for which you are thankful.
In the process of practicing gratitude, people usually recognize that the source of goodness lies, at least partially, outside themselves. Gratitude helps people connect to something bigger than themselves--and it’s not just a good feeling, it’s science. The Greater Good Science Center reports that:
- Over the past two decades, studies have consistently found that people who practice gratitude report fewer symptoms of illness, and depression...have more optimism, happiness, and stronger relationships.
- During a 2017 study, participants either received counseling, received counseling and journaled about their negative feelings, or received counseling and wrote a letter of gratitude once per week to someone. The results demonstrated that participants who expressed gratitude reported significantly higher levels of mental health at four and twelve weeks after the study.
If you want to do something right now to improve your mental health, I suggest you work at cultivating an attitude of thankfulness. Here are some tried-and-true strategies recommended by the Greater Good Science Center:
- Keep a thankfulness journal.
- Three days per week (or every day if you can!), write down five things for which you are thankful.
- Make a list of all the people who have made a positive difference in you life.
- Call or write to those people. A thank you card is a great way to lift you and another up.
- Focus your thoughts on the lists of people and things that have made you feel blessed.
Grateful people are more stress resistant...in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering...if people have a grateful disposition...they'll recover more quickly. Gratitude gives people a perspective from which they can resiliently interpret negative life events and guard against stress and anxiety.
With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. This week especially, put thankfulness into practice.
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