In honor of this month being November when we celebrate “Thanksgiving,” I thought, what better topic to discuss than just that? Giving thanks, being grateful, and gratitude. And why practicing gratitude can be beneficial to our emotional and physical well-being.
“Thank You!” Two little words can mean so much — or maybe not. I would hazard a guess to say that on occasion, we all probably throw that phrase out there without much thought or feeling behind it. How so, you might ask? Let me explain.
Do you remember, as a young tot, your parents teaching (and reminding) you to say “Please” and “Thank you?” I know I taught my children to say it. And it is good manners, and we should do that. But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not sure if I was always teaching them to practice gratitude or just teaching them good manners. I mean, after all, what parent wants their children to be thought of as rude and ungrateful? I want to think that my intentions were always for the right reason, but I’m not 100% sure.
A lesson to be learned
When I was about six years old, I was excitedly waiting my turn to open my Christmas gift in front of the whole family. You know, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandmas and Grandpas — the entire gang. And when I finally ripped the paper off and opened the box, the only thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I already have one of these!”. Well, needless to say, my parents did not appreciate my candor and outright honesty!
The “talking to” I got on the way home must have made a big impression on me. And I’ll tell you why. Because when I finally had kids, they knew the drill. It didn’t matter what was in that gift when they opened it. They were expected to smile and say, “Thank You!”. In fact, my children got to the point where they would pipe in and finish my little mantra before any family gathering where there would be presents. So the goal was to teach my children that even if they didn’t like what they got, they should recognize that the gift giver thought enough of them to give them a gift, and for that, they were to be grateful regardless of what was inside.
So, how important is it to be grateful? Robert A Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In addition, he has researched and written many books on gratitude that reveal why gratitude is good for our bodies, minds, and relationships. I want to share a couple of key points of his research.
What practicing gratitude can do for you
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something. When we do that, we can enjoy its benefits and will be less likely to take it for granted. We notice the positive more, allowing us to appreciate life’s pleasures as they come.
2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Emotions like envy, resentment, and regret can destroy our happiness. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. They are conflicting feelings. Research that was done by Emmons’ colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-An Tsang suggests that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.
3. Grateful people are more stress-resistant. An interesting finding in several studies showed that people with a grateful disposition in life recover more quickly in the face of severe trauma, suffering, and adversity. He believes gratitude gives people a perspective that guards them against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety amid negative life events.
4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful or practicing gratitude, you sense that someone else is looking out for you or maybe has somehow provided for your well-being. You are mindful of your network of relationships, past and present — people who have helped you along the way to where you are right now. You can change how you see yourself when you acknowledge how others have contributed to your life.
If you look for goodness, you will find it
There is goodness in our world. We have all benefited from it in some way. Of course, it doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that we don’t have discouragements and burdens along the way. That would be unrealistic. But we can strive to make it a habit to be present in our daily living and recognize all the good things in life that we get to enjoy.
It can be such simple things that we take for granted every day. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, consider that all you have to do is turn the knob, and instantly you have fresh, clean water. You didn’t make that happen — it took lots of people to make that happen.
Another part of practicing gratitude is figuring out where the goodness comes from. When it is not because of something we did, we must acknowledge others. Or even higher powers, if you are of a spiritual mindset, to give thanks for the many gifts received. Whether big or small, they have helped us to attain goodness in our lives.
Gratitude takes practice, just like any other skill. Thanksgiving Day is an excellent time to start, but don’t stop there. Keep practicing it daily so you can reap the benefits all year long. I’ll be right there with you practicing it too!
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner
Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop new techniques to incorporate into your life as part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. And now, in closing, it would be appropriate to give thanks to you, my readers, for reading my blogs. I hope you find them informational and inspiring. So, “THANK YOU!” for checking in to see what’s new, and I wish you all a very “Happy Thanksgiving! “
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’d love to work with you as you make daily changes regarding gratitude that can lead to big results in improving your satisfaction and success in life.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.