Each year at Thanksgiving we have a family tradition in which each person identifies something for which they are thankful. Responses can be anything from being thankful for a purple polka dot purse to the air we breathe, and everything in between. It has not mattered what blessing were counted. It was that we were taking the time to verbally appreciate each other and all the things we normally take for granted. I wonder if this year it might be harder to be thankful and express gratitude. After all, 2020 has been a challenging year. Perhaps that is all the more reason to have gratitude. What does it really mean to be grateful? Gratitude is an expression of appreciation for something that may or may not have monetary value. There are too many things to list that a person can be grateful for in their lives. Grateful feelings can arise for people we love, nature, animals, needs being met, and life in general (LoBue, et al., 2020).
Another important question is what are the benefits of having gratitude? Psychology Today mentions that gratitude not only makes a person feel positive, it can make us happier people. It can increase self-esteem, improve our friendships, and strengthen our family relationships during times of stress. In our work environments it can help us to find more meaning in our work and help us to be more effective managers. Additionally, gratitude can have an amazing impact on a person’s physical health. Did you know that by showing gratitude your sleep can be improved and blood pressure is reduced (Ackerman, 2020)?
It is not always easy to be grateful and if we are honest, sometimes we just do not think about it. With practice and effort, we can develop a grateful attitude that can permeate all aspects of our lives. There are many ways to foster gratitude such as keeping a gratitude journal, writing thank-you notes, and mentally thinking of three things you are grateful for and telling someone. Engaging in mental subtractions can help to develop a life of gratitude. You do this by imaging what life would have been like if some experience had not happened (LoBue, et al., 2020). According to Harvard Health Publishing, for people who are spiritual the practice of prayer and meditation can help to cultivate gratitude.
Using these techniques, it might be possible to make 2021 a better year even if circumstances are not what we hope they would be. This year at Thanksgiving we can use gratitude as a springboard to a new outlook on life. I have heard it said that what we focus on grows, so let’s focus on what we are grateful for to improve our mental health and strengthen our overall wellbeing.
LoBue, V., LaBier, D., Maidenberg, M.P., & Feldman, D.B. (2020). Gratitude. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude
Ackerman, C.E. (January 9, 2020). 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings. Positive Psychology.Com. Retrieved from
Harvard Health Publishing, (November 2011). In Praise of Gratitude. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitude