Recently I asked a friend, “What do you think is the importance of gratitude?” He said, “I feel good. It opens my heart up. Maybe that is enough. But it is a form of delight. I have a need to get to the feeling of gratitude. I can’t will it, but instead I must feel it. It comes from the act of giving. God gives us all this abundance. Gratitude is a feeling you show toward kindness or a blessing.” Wow!
Of course, it’s easier to feel deeply grateful when life is going well. But the practice and real treasure comes when you express appreciation for life even when it’s difficult.
Professors of Psychology Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons did research on gratitude and thanksgiving. Their studies found that daily gratitude exercises lead to higher alertness, enthusiasm, optimism, and more energy. They also found that grateful people feel more loved, less stressed, and less depressed. They exercise more regularly and make more progress on personal goals. All this from having gratitude for something! And each day, there is something to be grateful for.
As our gratitude holiday approaches, my practice is to keep my thoughts focused on what it’s truly about (between running to the store for more cranberries…). Here are my 7 ways to have a real Thanksgiving.
1. List 10 parts of your body that function reliably. For example, your ears, eyes, heart, bladder, kidneys, knees, ankles, toes, fingers, wrists, stomach, nose, eyebrows…
2. List 10 things that make you happy.
3. List 10 people who have helped you in the past, no matter how small.
4. List 10 people you have helped, no matter how small.
5. List 10 things you are grateful for in your life.
6. List all of the good that has come into your life in the last 5 years.
7. Complete the following sentence: I’m so happy and grateful now that…