" Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot"
Hausa proverb from Nigeria
" I am still determined to be cheerful and happy,
in whatever situation I may be; for I have also
learned from experience that the greater part of
our happiness or misery depends upon our
dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. "
As Thanksgiving is upon us, many of us will gather with family and friends to celebrate the holiday and to reflect on our lives and all the blessings we have received. It is a natural time of year to recognize and be grateful for many simple things, situations, people and circumstances that we understand to be "positive" and desirable for our own comfort and contentment. It is also possible that some of us are able to be thankful for the uninvited or less positive situations within our lives, recognizing these challenges as opportunities for change, transformation, reflection and creative exploration.
The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of most world religions and has been considered extensively by philosophers throughout the ages. More recently, the realm of positive psychology has examined the positive benefits of maintaining a grateful attitude throughout our lives. Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough are recognized as the world's leading scientific experts on gratitude.
Over the last decade, these researchers have consistently found that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier, more energetic and may possess stronger immune systems. As well, they report fewer physical ailments such as headaches, nausea and stomach aches , they have lower blood pressure and they spend more time exercising and report better sleep quality than their "non-grateful" counterparts. The researchers also found that people who were rated as being more grateful took better care of themselves overall and engaged in more proactive health behaviours including having healthier diets and scheduling regular physical medical examinations.
Emmons and McCollough have also reported on the psychological and social benefits of an attitude of gratitude. These benefits include less stress, more contentment, increased optimism, decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation and a greater willingness to help others and to forgive others. Not surprisingly, people who were categorized as grateful had greater satisfaction within personal relationships.
TRAIN AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
Most of us find it easy to be grateful when things are going our way, when the day is sunny and peaceful and we have had our morning coffee. But how do we get better at expressing feelings of appreciation on a more regular basis, amidst the mundane of the minutiae and the chaotic confusion of the busy days that dominate our lives? The research indicates that just as we can improve our movement patterns and strengthen our hearts and muscles with regular physical activity, we can improve our capacity for gratitude by "training" the attitude. The simplest way to become a more grateful person is to regularly and deliberately look for things to be grateful for and express that gratitude, either by writing your list down or by mentally acknowledging the list. This can be done first thing in the morning, right before bed, or while waiting in the long line up for your morning cuppa. Some people like to keep a "Gratitude Journal" and some of us will simply include a list of simple pleasures in our regular journalling. Certainly allowing yourself to express a genuine "thank you" to the man who held the door open while you walked out of the store, or the lady who let you into her lane during rush hour construction congestion is a very courteous and effective way to train your gratitude muscle as well. Perhaps you would like to set an example at home and cultivate gratitude as a meal time or bed time ritual with the rest of the family, inviting each person to list two to three simple things they are grateful for. The trick to building gratitude quickly and effectively is to keep it simple and to practice mindful thankfulness regularly.
I am grateful you have taken the time to read this post. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to share my interests with you. I am grateful for another beautiful day within which to practice flexing my gratitude muscle.