The Path to Happiness is Paved in Gratitude
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time! I know for many of us it is simply Christmas or Hanukkah's warm up band proclaiming, “time to get your shit together for the main event.” I suppose it is a practice run for your December holiday of choice, but for me Thanksgiving wins hands down. Thanksgiving is my jam! Food, Friends, Family, what’s not to love? For me you get all the goodness of our December rush without the pressure and expense of the gifts.
At my house T-day is not about the Pilgrims and Indians and that horrible colonization that repeats itself still to this day. No, for me it all about gratitude. According to Merriam Webster the definition of gratitude is a feeling of appreciation of thanks. So see, Thanksgiving is all about Gratitude!
Dr. Robert Emmons who is known to be one of top researches in gratitude and happiness, says gratitude is: A felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation.
Don’t you just love that? Juicy right?
For me there is something magic that happens in expressing gratitude. I believe that the path to happiness is paved in gratitude, meaning that to be happy (or happier); simply expressing gratitude on a regular basis can shift your emotions and how you experience life.
As human beings our brains are hardwired with a negativity bias. It isn’t anything we can totally change, it is just our biology. For generations survival of fittest meant that our ancestors needed to on the lookout for danger. Constantly looking danger to come onto the scene.
So although our brains are wired to be looking for the negative, they are elastic and you as the owner of that brain can begin to shape and change it. Just like all you cross-fitters building beautiful biceps on the outside we can cross-train our brain to begin to look for the positive creating a counter point.
One of the simplest methods to do this is to create a gratitude practice. Made popular by Oprah and more recently Facebook, a gratitude journal or written acknowledgement of what you are grateful for has a medical quality. A soothing effect like pink calamine lotion on a summer bug bite.
I have kept a gratitude journal off and on for years and highly recommend it! But if journaling is not you thing pick one of these cool and creative ideas and work one into your daily routine. Give it a try from now until the main act takes the stage in December and see how you attitude shifts, it just might be magic!
Gratitude Tree: This one was at my Thanksgiving party this year. Simply get some branches anchor in a vase. Provide paper cut into a leaf shape where guest can write one thing they are grateful for and attach to the tree. Before dinner or dessert read out all the leaves!
Morning Thanks: For me I like to anchor a gratitude practice with something every day. Because days are often different at this stage of life, I anchor my gratitude list to brushing my teeth. Another favorite is with your first cup of coffee. What is nice about this if you are really not feeling it you can at least be grateful for the cup ‘o Joe or your strong teeth!
Write a letter to someone you are grateful for and mail it! With a stamp! CRAZY I know but a written letter is a lost art and it becomes such a special gift. If this feels too sentimental try a written thank you note for a co-worker. One of my favorite things to do while leading teams at Microsoft was to write a quick note for team members letting them know how much I appreciated them. This is a game changer people!
Create a Gratitude Talisman I love the idea of a talisman or visual reminder of something you are wanting to have, be or do. This calls on a bit of law of attraction and I find it can work miracles. You can make or buy a piece of jewelry (check out my friend Celeste’s itsy shop ), draw a picture, find something in nature or simply write a word on a yellow sticky note.
Grateful Commuting. Did you know the average American spends 101 minutes a day driving? Crazy but totally believable no? I don’t drive as much as I used to but I know when I was in the thick of my work centered life I spent hours in my car. I really had do some work to shift how I felt about that time in the car. Eventually it became a great sanctuary; a place of peace and sanctuary. A great way to create a gratitude practice is to anchor it around your time spent in the car. This can be a true test of your stamina as traffic is a top inducer of stress, but see if you can begin to make a list of things you are grateful for as you commute.
Give a Heartfelt Thank You. Tell someone that you are thankful for them. Perhaps the grouchy bus driver, frazzled 5th grade teacher, or underappreciated barista. Let someone in your daily travels know that you appreciate them, with a kind word. Watch the instant shift in mood; yours and theirs!
I hope that your season is one filled with gratitude for those things large and small. Each time you express gratitude you are filling your own tank and adding another vote for the positive. Think of a gratitude practice as an investment in your happiness!
As I described to my South African Thanksgiving guests last night, I like to consider Thanksgiving the pause of before the holiday rush. The time to stop and look up , out and in to the things that matter most and say Thank You! Happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful and thankful for all of you!