The fall is here and soon I will be heading north to have a family thanksgiving and to close up the cottage. Thanksgiving is a holiday that asks us to “give thanks”. Originally, the focus of our gratitude was the bounty of the crops, a much needed food supply heading into a winter. Indeed the First Nations people lived closely in harmony with nature and were masterful at the skills required to endure a winter. Not so for the pilgrams. After 66 days at sea aboard the Mayflower, most passengers were sick, but survived. That first winter however, nearly half died. My own ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. I give thanks for their survival so that I can be here today.
Thanksgiving in my family has been modernized. Yes, we do the turkey and all the trimmings, but the idea of giving thanks once a year has been expanded and modernized to giving gratitude every single day – many times a day. I guess that is the joy of having a mom who is a therapist, eh?
Food for thought
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. is a prolific gratitude researcher. He has lead many research studies that investigate the power of gratitude on our well being. His research confirms the link between being grateful and being happy. In fact, gratitude is so powerful it reduces depression. It seems gratitude can also reduce the expression of other toxic emotions such as envy, regret, frustration and resentment.
I journal every morning, as do both my daughters. I start every day by writing “Good morning, my beautiful life”. From there, I write a few lines of what I am grateful for specifically in my life right now. This is especially important if you are a goal driven person. While goals can keep up focussed on a direction to move, they also keep our attention on what we do not yet have. It pulls us to think about what is yet to be, the lacking or short falls. It’s great to want to buy a house one day, but right now you are in an apartment and you should feel grateful for having a roof over your head, as many people around your city, don’t. If you have a screaming child, give thanks that their lungs work, as many children are on wait lists for lung transplants. It’s a new way of thinking, and it takes practice, but if you exercise the practice of finding gratitude for your current situation everyday, I promise – you’ll get happier!