With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

Gratitude: 4 Steps and 3 Months to a Year Long Practice

Plan gratitude until it becomes spontaneous joy.

REW photo
After writing about the convergence of Thanksgiving Day and the first day of the Hanukkah yesterday I pointed out that this is a good time to see these days as the start of a lifelong journey, one that is filled with an attitude of gratitude. Presented here is a kick-off plan.

The studies on gratitude are compelling.  Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, is considered the world’s gratitude expert.  

When I asked Dr. Emmons if the purpose of his work was to convince others that gratitude can be measured from a scientific perspective, not just religious, he noted: "We have replaced arm chair philosophy and moral and religious rhetoric regarding gratitude with empirical observation of what gratitude is and what it does in people's lives."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

He describes this further in “Why Gratitude Is Good.”  This link has two videos.

Gratitude in children

Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D., is associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., who has been involved in some research papers with Emmons.  His findings indicate that the children can be taught gratitude at an early age.  He said that grateful children do better in school, have fewer headaches and stomach aches, get better test scores and may be more community minded.

Dr. Froh commented:

"A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or things our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them."

Here are his thoughts from an earlier interview: 4 Ways Children Learn Gratitude

To begin a year-long gratitude ritual, start one day at a time.

Keep in mind the value of laughter and tears. Let gratitude bring out the silly in you especially if you laugh until you cry. And if you need to cry out of sadness, lhere is How Gratitude Can Bring Back Your Smile

Today: Think of four ways to express gratitude.

  • Start by being grateful for yourself whether you are too thin, too fat, too frazzled.  Just be grateful that you are here.
  • Be grateful for the day whether with family, friends, alone, or serving at shelters.
  • Express gratitude for those who serve our country who are not with relatives.
  • Be appreciative of children – yours, your neighbor’s, your relatives.  Whether they are darlings or little firecrackers remember, they are the next generation who will become our caregivers.

 Tomorrow: Think of four more ways to express gratitude

  • Look around you, and find something for which to be grateful.
  • Check out each room or each corner of your home and be grateful for four walls.
  • Express gratitude by checking out closets for clothes to wear and give away what you do not really need.
  • Be thankful for the food in your home and share some with food banks.

 This week: Create gratitude baskets for your home

  • Find a basket or bowl and fill it with gratitude sayings.
  • Choose one each day or each moment that you need a gratitude lift.
  • After choosing the saying, put it back in the basket  - then also add a new one.
  • Encourage family, friends, and children to participate.

For December: The thank you basket for others

  • Fill a basket with stationary and note cards -- these can even serve as last minute birthday remembrances.
  • Make certain to have at least two working pens in the basket.
  • Add at least one book of stamps.
  • Buy a journal in which you make a note to yourself of someone who deserves a thank you note and date it. When you send out that note, add that date as well. What you will often see is that too much time elapses from the day in which you said to yourself "I should write that person a note" and the day you actually get to write it, stamp it, and get it into the mail.

For January 2014

  • Be grateful for the New Year.
  • Say good-by to the old, but not “good riddance” as there must be something for which you can be grateful.
  • Create a list of your positive qualities and express gratitude.
  • Start a daily gratitude Journal in which you write at least 2- 4 gifts of mini miracles.

For February 2014

  • Be grateful for Valentine’s Day whether or not you have a love in your life, because the day was created for children to enjoy.
  • Send gratitude Valentines to everyone you know who will not be receiving a box of chocolate-covered calories.
  • Express gratitude by bringing flowers to an elderly neighbor.
  • Smile at strangers at least once a day even if you don’t feel like doing so. Try Some Smile Therapy by Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW 

Your own sense of gratitude

Consider this to be a start. Eventually you will tailor a monthly guide to fit your needs.  By February you should have an attitude of gratitude pulsating throughout your being.  Take the rest of the year to create gratitude rituals within your own home.  Design a gratitude calendar to remind you that being thankful is filled with benefits – both emotional and physical.

Here are other gratitude columns.  Sometimes I repeat myself, but the message of gratitude cannot be stated or re-stated often enough.

Copyright 2013  Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

more...

Subscribe to With Love and Gratitude

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?