With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, I’m seeing many reminders about gratitude and being thankful. One friend on Facebook has decided to post something that she is grateful for each day. While I’m sure the same good-natured grumps who longed for all the online Halloween shenanigans to stop will soon convey the same attitude toward public displays of thanksgiving, I love the prompting to be grateful.
Gratitude has so many benefits to personal well-being and healthy relationships that it is too bad so many of us, myself included, forget to claim it more often. An important study* from 2003 shows how clearly gratitude is linked to resiliency:
Gratitude not only helps the individual to feel good, it inspires us to do nice things for each other which leads to more and stronger friendships.
The positive emotions generated by gratitude lead to a more flexible mindset.
Both of the above provide for greater and deeper resources that we can access during times of adversity and stress.
“Gratitude is a form of love,” say the authors of the study and, in another paper, suggest that “Gratitude provides life meaning, by encapsulating life itself as a gift.”**
So, given that gratitude is a really important part of contentment and joy in life, how can we become aware of it more often?
Like a lot of people, I get a little tired of the chirpy “Have an attitude of gratitude” and the maintenance of gratitude lists. (Not that there’s anything wrong with either of them!) However, I stumbled upon a simple way to not only remember to be grateful, but to notice what I’m thankful for in the moment. My friend, Tovi, sent me the link to a blog post by Kelle Hampton in which the author wonders about how to teach gratitude to her young daughters.
If I asked Lainey to explain gratitude, she’d be stumped. But if I asked her to tell me what her favorite thing about today was, she’d pause and smile while she thought, and then she might begin by describing how cold the ocean was when she stepped past the foamy line that married sand with sea.
And so, Hampton and her daughters will often say “What I love about right now is . . .” Maybe it’s a cloud shaped like a bunny or the feel of ice cream on your tongue on a hot day.
I love this. It’s simple and it’s beautiful. Try it.
So, what I love about right now is . . .
. . . the silence of the house save for the rhythmic ticking of my beloved clocks on the wall.
. . . the way my cat sits beside my keyboard on the desk, watching me, blinking her green-yellow eyes slowly with contentment.
. . . feeling healthy and strong.
. . . having you to share these thoughts with.
What do you love about right now?
Takeaway points: Gratitude is one of those things that is scientifically proven to create health and well-being in our lives. But we don’t always have to carry lists around with us; sometimes we can just notice what we love about right now.
*Emmons, R.A. and McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
**Emmons R.A., Shelton C.S. Gratitude and the science of positive psychology. (2002). In: Snyder CR, Lopez SJ, editors. Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford Univ. Press; pp. 459–471.
Want to cultivate more gratitude in your life or find gratitude in the midst of adversity? Give me a call at 650-529-9059 or email me for a therapy appointment.