Why Be Grateful?
Research shows that gratitude leads to happiness. Reflect this Thanksgiving.
Posted Nov 21, 2016
Those closest to me know that Thanksgiving is my favorite national holiday—possibly because it is secular, and a holiday that reflects a sense of interconnectedness among people and cultures. These days, I think we need this day more than ever.
Gratitude, according to R.C. Soloman in the foreword to the book, The Psychology of Gratitude, “is one of the most neglected emotions and one of the most underestimated of virtues.” Originally celebrated as a day to give thanks for the harvest of the previous year, it has become a holiday for gathering together and expressing gratitude for our blessings. For me, Thanksgiving is a reminder to appreciate all the good in my life, which includes my beloved family, friends, and colleagues; as well as my lifestyle and good health. I love this holiday because it focuses on all things positive, free of materialistic motivations such as mindless gift-giving.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds me that there’s more to be thankful for than sad about. My beloved father taught me the power of positive thinking—specifically, looking at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
This week I am thankful that most of my family will be together sharing stories, experiences, and our company. This is my first Thanksgiving with my beautiful grandchildren, Jaxson and Lila, whom I hope to instill with the importance of being grateful.
This year will also be different because instead of having the festivities at my home, we will be celebrating at my daughter’s home in New York. I will miss making all my homemade delicacies, but that’s okay, as we will all be together to rejoice.
Given everything that’s happening in the world, and the instability and fear that many of us feel, there is no better time than now to stop and give thanks for all that is good. We need to continually remind ourselves of the importance of incorporating gratitude into our stream of consciousness, and remember that even if it seems as if we’ve hit rock bottom, there is always hope that we will come out on the other side.
If this is a difficult time for you, or if you’ve recently experienced a loss, I can understand how you might feel that you don’t have much to be grateful for. You might feel alone and lonely. Perhaps you want to be by yourself, and that’s okay, too, but if there’s anyone you want to share the holiday with, you might consider reaching out to that person. Just know that whatever type of Thanksgiving you decide to have, it will be just right for your particular situation.
Regardless of how you feel psychologically, you might want to consider writing a letter of gratitude to someone who you are grateful for. Studies have shown that the mere act of thanking someone can be good for your health. For example, a study done in The Journal of Happiness (2012) found that those who wrote letters of gratitude over a three-week period were happier, had greater life satisfaction, and had less incidence of depressive symptoms.
In addition to letters, you might consider pulling out your journal and making a list of what you are grateful for. This is something I try to do every November in honor of Thanksgiving. Maybe you’ll want to join me in this endeavor . . .
Here is my (partial) list of things I’m grateful for:
- My health
- My family
- My friends
- My colleagues
- My teachers
- My physicians
- My meditation routine
- My journal
- My books
- My four-legged friends
- My house
- My iPhone
- My computer
- The air I breathe
- The ocean
- The sun
- My car
- My life
Here’s a poem I’d like to share with you in honor of Thanksgiving:
I'm Thankful for You
by Joanna Fuchs
Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
let's be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
I’m thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Emmons, R.A. and M. E. McCullough. (2004). The Psychology of Gratitude. London, England: Oxford University Press.
Toepfer, S.M., K. Cichy and P. Peters. (2012). “Letters of Gratitude: Further Evidence for Author Benefits.” The Journal of Happiness Studies. Vol 13. Issue 1. pp. 187-201.