I have a secret to tell you, two words are required to grow your happiness. These two words have the power to change our lives when said with honesty and meant with great sincerity. Canadians are described as polite people. We are always humorously portrayed by saying; ‘sorry, please, and thank you!’ I’m all for being cordial and polite, but it’s possible to utter words of civility while carrying around an attitude of indifference or even worse, entitlement!
Thanksgiving is fast approaching! It’s the time on our cultural calendar when we remind ourselves that we have an obligation to be thankful. I’m glad we have this appropriately branded box on our calendar that calls us away from entitlement and toward an orientation of gratitude. I know you will agree—one day a year won’t cut it, but it can be a starting point if we leverage it well.
What if this Thanksgiving we could start a new habit, form a new discipline and develop a practice of ‘giving-thanks?’ There are psychological, social and spiritual upsides to practicing gratitude—it actually makes us happier people! There’s something in it for us as we cultivate an inner disposition that leans away from entitlement and self-absorbed living and leans toward gratitude.
In a Harvard Health on-line article called; “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier,” a study was conducted that invited people to write a few sentences each week. One group was prompted to write about things they were grateful for and the other group was invited to write about what irritations they experienced recently. The results were quite dramatic: “After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Studies have also determined that gratitude can improve relationships. When couples take the time to express thanks and appreciation for the other person, there is an opportunity for a positive connection to occur and a greater safety in communicating concerns. Gratitude seems to open us up to connect and solve problems more effectively. Even employers have found this to be true! Employees who feel appreciated, experience greater morale and productivity increases according to the Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Scripture is clear that we are to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Giving thanks ‘in’ all circumstances is different than giving thanks ‘for’ all circumstances. It’s possible for us to have an orientation of gratitude, even when faced with significant challenges. The word ‘gratitude’ comes from the root word for ‘grace.’ When we practice gratitude, we are acknowledging that the good that’s come to us has come from outside of ourselves. We are recipients of many gifts. It’s just right to say ‘thank you’ when receiving a gift!
Below are opportunities for us to strengthen the muscle of gratitude …
Send a thank you card, email or text. We can strengthen relationships, encourage others and lift our own spirit by sending messages of gratitude to others. Why not consider sending a note, or maybe a simple text message once a week. Think about who has made your life better; or has sacrificed in some significant or small way for your well-being and send it their direction. You may just make someone’s day and move yourself toward a happier version of you.
Think about someone you’re grateful for. Life can be crazy busy, and if you’re feeling squeezed for time; why note practice mental gratitude by ‘thinking’ about people who have loved you and served you well. This can easily become a prayer of thanksgiving to God. The next time you see that person, you can say; “I was thinking/praying about you recently, and I was reminded how grateful I am for you…”. It may feel awkward to tell someone in person, but it can be an extremely life-giving experience for both you and the person hearing the affirming words.
Keep a gratitude journal. Many people find great help in clarifying their thoughts by writing in a journal. For others, their journal is on their computer. It’s a good practice to set aside a few minutes to process our emotions and consider how we have been given far more than we deserve.
In a civil culture, we are taught to say; “sorry, please and thank you!” So much more is at stake than being cordial; our personal happiness and the condition of our soul is at stake!
By the way, I’m grateful you took the time to read this blog! Share the secret with others!