As the American Thanksgiving holiday approaches, our thoughts turn to Giving Thanks and the emotion of Gratitude. This emotion is so foundational to the experience of all the Positive Emotions that I believe it is impossible to oversell its importance or speak of it too often.
Gratitude is defined as, the quality of being warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankfulness.
Reminders about the Importance of Gratitude
- Expressions of Gratitude are the bricks of the foundation upon which Happiness, Optimism, Hope, and Joy are built. (No surprise that nearly every culture and society, now and past, has at least one holiday that celebrates gratitude or appreciation.)
- Practiced regularly, Gratitude shapes your worldview toward noticing abundance versus scarcity, since it focuses on what you Have versus what you Lack.
- You bring positive energy to the conversation whenever you speak with others about something for which you are grateful.
- Grateful people make better friends, parents, coworkers, and leaders.
- Finally, when you practice gratitude, you feel more content with the world, no matter what your current state (even unemployed!).
Practice makes Better
If you want to learn the piano or run a marathon, you must practice, practice, and practice. The same is true of emotional states. Here are three intentional activities that strengthen Gratitude.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. This is the most basic and powerful practice in all of Positive Psychology. Most happiness books place this practice at/near the top of the list. Regularly write down three good things from the past day or two. Pencil and paper or online journals work equally well. This builds your capacity to notice more in-the-moment joy.
- Say, “Thank you**” Those who say ‘thank you’ more often than ‘please give me….’ experience higher life satisfaction. **or Gracias, Grazie, Arrigato, Obrigada, Ďakujem, Asante – any language works!
- Notice the Invisible and the Infrastructure. When was the last time you gave thanks when the lights go on when you flip a switch? Or that clean water flows from your faucet? Or that you can live without fear of being assassinated in your home? Much of the world’s population still lacks these life basics, so take a moment to appreciate what may have become invisible to you.
“Whatever we are waiting for — peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance — it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” ~Ellen Vaughn
When you GIVE thanks, you need someone to Receive it to complete the cycle. Read more about GETTING thanks in Part 2 tomorrow.