It is so much fun to feast to the point of bursting on Thanksgiving, celebrating abundance with family or friends.
But let’s not forget about giving thanks — really giving thanks and meaning it.
The New York Times ran an op-ed headlined, “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.” that highlights some of why we should take time to focus on our blessings.
Arthur Brooks wrote in part:
- Researchers in one 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. Other studies have shown the same pattern and lead to the same conclusion.
- According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure). It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things.
- In addition to building our own happiness, choosing gratitude can also bring out the best in those around us. Researchers at the University of Southern California showed this in a 2011 study of people with high power but low emotional security (think of the worst boss you’ve ever had). The research demonstrated that when their competence was questioned, the subjects tended to lash out with aggression and personal denigration. When shown gratitude, however, they reduced the bad behavior. That is, the best way to disarm an angry interlocutor is with a warm “thank you.”
I encourage you to read his entire column, which includes advice on how to develop a daily gratitude habit that can keep your focus on what’s positive in your life.
If you’d like further help or inspiration with gratitude, I’ve written dozens of posts in a series called Month of Thanksgiving. They include:
Ways to get started being more grateful
- One of the most common ideas I run across is keeping a gratitude journal, writing down a few things you’re grateful for every day.
- Once you’ve thought of some things that make you grateful, you might enjoy sharing them on Facebook or Twitter
- You might also enjoy reflecting on why you’re grateful for each thing on your list
Need some ideas about what to give thanks for?
- If you put most people on the spot and ask them what they’re grateful for can come up with some of the basics: health, a safe home, enough to eat. Just because they’re cliche doesn’t mean we should take these for granted. I gave thanks for my husband, my family and my friends.
- How about simple pleasures like sleeping in late on weekends, the smell of autumn leaves, hot coffee waiting when you wake up? What are the little things you often overlook in your daily hustle bustle?
How can you express your gratitude?
- do a little dance
- write a thank-you note
- give a gift that helps remind you of something you’re grateful for
- give and receive thanks verbally
Overcoming obstacles to gratitude
- acknowledge the things you hate and try to find something you love in each
- reflect on your regrets and give thanks for the lessons your mistakes have taught you
- try to forgive the people who’ve hurt you, or at least to find something to be grateful for in the hurt
- try to redirect your desire for things you don’t have to gratitude for things you already have
- if you’re grieving, reflect on the reasons you’re grateful to have known the loved one you’ve lost
- embrace life’s imperfections — if you throw a dinner party and it goes terribly wrong, at least you’ll get a laugh
- find time to be grateful even if you think you don’t have time to give thanks
Thanks spending some of your time with Newvine Growing. Happy Thanksgiving!