Gratitude. It’s defined as thankful appreciation for something received, whether tangible or intangible. Many of us were taught from a young age that the expression of gratitude for something received is polite and even expected, right?
Last weekend we participated in a Trunk or Treat event. As the costumed children approached, their parents prompted “What do you say?” With few exceptions, the child would respond “Thank you” even though the expectant parent was looking for “Trick or Treat!” The children have a conditioned response to the question “What do you say?”
We are entering into a season of thankfulness and I must confess that my conditioned response too often is less “Thank you” and more “Really? Is that the best you’ve got?”
Now, before you decide I’m an unusually ungrateful person, think for a hot minute about your daily interactions. We often fail to slow enough to truly appreciate the many little opportunities each day presents for thanksgiving. We overlook some of the small but sweet moments of our day.
Yet scientific research affirms the positive impact of gratitude, the expression of thanks. In the article cited below, researchers found that for most who participated in a focus group, making a written inventory of things they were thankful for had a positive impact on their overall well-being.
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” [i]
November seems to be a great time to set aside a few minutes each day to list the things we are thankful for. I’m challenging some friends to join me in the following, trusting that by the end of the month we will be more positive, feel better physically and be generally more pleasant for others to be around. Here’s the assignment:
- Daily: List three things you are thankful for – while it might be tempting to jot the same three every day (spouse, children, parents, for example) try to dig a little deeper and look back on interactions, small acts of kindness, etc. that you experienced throughout your day. You can utilize a small journal or even a calendar to make your daily list.
- Weekly: Act on your gratitude – send a hand-written note, call or text someone who did more than they had to, speak to the store manager about that employee who went the extra mile or write out a prayer thanking God for his blessings, answered prayers and faithfulness.
- At least once during the month: Lavish thanksgiving on someone – spend time with them; whether your budget allows a special meal out or having them over for coffee, just do it! Invite them to lunch or meet for a walk with focused time for you to express to them how they’ve made a difference and to simply say “thanks”.
My hope and prayer for myself is that at the end of the month, my conditioned response to even my very normal days will be “Thank you!”. I trust that I will be happier, more content and much more pleasant because of my awareness of life’s daily blessings. Will you join me?
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 9:1 NIV
[i] Excerpt from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude