“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
With Thanksgiving in the air, most everyone gives pause to ponder personal connections to the holiday.
Perhaps Thanksgiving is interpreted in your home as an enormous meal with time for napping and football between servings of Grandma’s pie.
Perhaps it’s spending a day reconnecting with your significant other.
Perhaps it’s a day you donate in service by volunteering in a local soup kitchen, for a charity organization or by delivering meals to folks who otherwise wouldn’t have one.
However you spend your day, consider this:
Why limit Thanksgiving goodwill to only 24 hours a year? Why not find a way, no matter how small, to infuse the gratitude we give freely at Thanksgiving into our daily lives?
Research supports the belief that living life from a perspective of abundance and optimism actually improves our lives in many ways, including higher energy, vitality, empathy and connection to others.
In one study, keeping gratitude lists helped participants make more progress toward important individual goals than non-participants.
Even teens and young adults benefit from self-guided gratitude introspections by exhibiting higher levels of alertness, determination and energy. Children, too, show more positive attitudes toward school and their families when grateful thinking is a part of their daily lives.
Given all the benefits of positive thinking, of taking small moments to find an essence of gratitude in your life, why stop at Thanksgiving?
If you’d like to challenge yourself to instill more gratitude into your daily life, start small. Gratitude is best savored in tiny pieces, not gigantic chunks.
Taking time to notice the small things that improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, but it does need regular practice to ingrain it into your thinking process.
• With your cup of coffee tomorrow, reflect on your best non-material possession and why it’s so important to you.
• When playing with grandkids or while gathered around the table with your own children, notice their smiles. Take one of their comments, thoughts or reactions and see if you can’t put even a slightly grateful spin on it. It’s difficult to expect children to be grateful if we don’t pause to teach them how to do so.
• Make a game of listing how many things you’re grateful for, in round robin style, with a group of friends or family. No fair repeating what someone else says!
• Choose one rote event from your day: unplugging your cell phone, eating a bowl of cereal, patting the dog goodbye–and add a singular gratitude phrase to that gesture each day.
Finding ways to add gratitude to your day, to keep paying forward the idea of living in the moment of happiness you have created in your own mind, can be fun.
See how long you can maintain your practice. For each day you remember to pause and be grateful, add a smiley face to your calendar or make a notation somewhere.
If you miss a day, no need to fret enough to undo all the good you’ve brought yourself. Acknowledge your slip and make up for it by being doubly grateful.
With practice, you’ll soon find yourself inserting random bits of gratitude for your life and find yourself working toward the ideal expressed by our 35th president—and living each day from a perspective of giving thanks that can only get better with time.
Gratitude and Thankfulness research courtesy of the Emmons Lab, UC Davis, University of California: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm)
Beth Morrow is a freelance author, educator and member of the Central Ohio Diabetes Association’s Youth Committee and Camp Leadership teams. She has served for 18 years as Senior Week program director for Camp Hamwi, a residential, age-based, weeklong residential camp for diabetic youth. Reach her via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.