I feel thankful to get to write about gratitude this month. On my way to work this morning I noticed all the vibrant colors on the tree leaves contrasted against the beautiful blue sky, and breathed in the crisp air. We live in a beautiful place! Paying attention to what’s good in life is a gift we can give ourselves (and others) that keeps on giving.
Robert Emmons, Ph.D, a psychologist and professor at UC Davis, and the director of the Emmons Lab, has spent years researching gratitude. He found that people who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Gratitude is a choice that can create more abundance, prosperity, well-being, joy and happiness. It takes discipline and consistency, as do most meaningful things, and it’s worth a try this month!
Gratitude is not about forcing positive feelings, or ignoring difficulties – rather it’s about choosing to focus on our abundance. If we try viewing life through an abundant lens, we’ll find what we’re looking for. The opposite is true as well, so if we focus on what we lack, we’ll also find what we’re looking for.
A spiritual leader said, “We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before expressing thanks for the rain? Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that we look beyond our present day challenges.”
I personally love to challenge my brain to think in and statements rather than or statements. I can be thankful and going through a hard time, or slightly annoyed and appreciative, rather than being only one or the other. This type of thinking expands our ability to feel several feelings at the same time and not be confined to just one. The holiday season can be full of anticipation, joy, connecting and can also be a source of loneliness and perhaps contention for all of us. Why not use this month to try some intentional gratitude out and see the results? I challenge you to pick one of the activities mentioned below to do this month.
*Keep a daily gratitude journal during November. Write one thing you are grateful for each day in the journal. Be specific and make a game out of finding new things each day.
*Keep a gratitude journal for someone you love. Write one thing you are grateful for in that person every day, and present them with the compilation for Thanksgiving. My husband and I did this 2 years ago and we still have our books we presented to each other.
*Write a thank you note to whomever comes to mind. Do it as often as you can.
*Practice the ABC’s of gratitude. Write one thing you are thankful for beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Write the first thing that comes to your mind.
*Listen to one of the many gratitude meditations on the gratefulness.org website.
*Come up with an idea of your own to live a more thankful life.
May each of us intentionally look for what’s good, and by doing so, may we find it!
–Shawnee McDowell, MSW, LCSW
P.S. You can find the Greater Good November Happiness Calendar here: