Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. ~ Denis Waitley
In a few days, Americans will be gathering with family and friends for the annual Thanksgiving feast. But with all the food, football and parades, we sometimes forget what this day is really about. So, before the feasting and fun, let’s take a few minutes to briefly review the concept of gratitude.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude or thank you is an appreciation for what one has received. When someone helps us with no strings attached, we express our gratitude by saying thank you. According to Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkley and an expert on the topic:
Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves… We acknowledge that other people – or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.
In fact, gratitude is a universal human notion. It exists in all cultures, and history is filled with discussions of gratitude. Gratitude and references to giving thanks appear in Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist texts. The Greek philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) said, Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Why live with gratitude?
Living in gratitude offers a variety of benefits. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who live in gratitude are healthier than those who do not. They have fewer aches and pains and are more likely to take care of themselves through regular exercise and doctor’s visits. Also, they are more likely to have better control of their emotions and experience less depression than others. Grateful people sleep better.
People who regularly express gratitude:
- Have better interpersonal relationships at home and at work;
- Are more empathic and less aggressive;
- Have increased self-esteem;
- Are more resilient; and,
- Have lower stress levels.
A life satisfaction study conducted by Seligman, Peterson and Park (2004), found that gratitude is “robustly associated” with life satisfaction (along with hope, curiosity, love and zest [approaching life with energy and excitment]).
According to author Neale Donald Walsh, The struggle ends when gratitude begins. Recently, I spent time with a woman in a stressful situation – her 28 year old son was very sick. I was helping her with a complicated problem that took a while to resolve, but through it all, she was the epitome of patience. She did not get frustrated, impatient or complain. When I thanked her for her patience, she said, “I don’t have much, but I have patience.”
She was silent for a moment, and then said. “Yes, you’re right. I have my son, his sisters and brother; wonderful friends and neighbors. We have a roof over our heads, food on the table, money to pay the bills and a car that runs. I have my heath.” She smiled and said, “I have a lot. Thank you for reminding me.”
She was right. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of all that we have and to take the time to appreciate and be grateful for it. It helps us keep things in perspective, which helps us manage our emotions.
When I remind myself of what I am grateful for, the partial list reads as follows:
- I am thankful for my family, my friends, and my silly dog Curly.
- I am grateful for the people in my neighborhood and that we look out for one another.
- I am thankful for the trials and obstacles I encounter and the lessons I learn from them.
- I am grateful that I live in a place where I can ride my bicycle all year round.
- I am especially thankful for you, my Gentle Readers – for your support and encouragement. Happy Thanksgiving!
Your Noodle Challenge…
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. ~ Melody Beattie
I will live in gratitude by:
- Saying thank you every day;
- Doing my best work;
- Doing all I can to support my loved ones, friends, and associates;
- Seeing the glass as half-full, not half-empty; and,
- Treating everyone I meet with respect and kindness no matter how brief the encounter.
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. ~ Oprah Winfrey
Riddle Me This…
Q: What kind of key opens the door on Thanksgiving?
A: A turkey!
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm … make a plan and then act!
Park, N., Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. (2004) , “Strengths of Character and Well-being,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23:5, pp. 6603 – 619, retrieved November 1, 2017,
- Gratitude courtesy of HuffPost Healthy Living
- Patient woman image courtesy of Your Own World USA
- Half full image courtesy of Alex the Great