This week prior to Thanksgiving finds each of us at a different place. Some of us are preparing to close up early. Others of us may face a pre-holiday, pre-Black Friday rush in our business or in last-minute preparations for family or guests. Some of you Coloradans may even be taking a ski day next Wednesday!
But for all of us who own businesses or provide financial advice to those that do, this is a great day to slow down enough to express gratitude for our life and all the blessings we are experiencing.
In addition to the intrinsic benefit of giving thanks, there are objective reasons for doing so. According to U of California Davis professor, Robert Emmons (1):
People with neuromuscular conditions similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) who kept a gratitude journal report
- fewer illness symptoms,
- feeling better about their lives as a whole, and
- being more optimistic about the future.
Based on this and other research, Emmons concluded that gratitude is a choice and one’s happiness set-point, unlike our weight set-point, and can be modified through grateful responses to our life experiences.
In another study, Emmons and his colleagues divided participants into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. Another group described five daily hassles and a control group listed five events that had affected them in some way.
Those in the gratitude group
- felt better about their lives overall,
- were more optimistic about the future, and
- reported fewer health problems than the other participants.
I am experimenting with the first exercise recommended below. I find that remembering and recording and ruminating on 5 “good, true, and beautiful” happenings or people each day is a powerful elixir for elevating my attitude. I encourage you to try this until Thanksgiving and even “go public” on Thanksgiving Day with your gratitude experience!
1 The research is summarized in Robert Emmons’ new book, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
Here are three simple suggestions to help you start (or re-start) a regular practice of expressing gratitude:
1) Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
This is probably the most effective strategy for increasing your level of gratitude. Set aside time daily to record three to five things that you are grateful for. Schedule in your calendar a regular time at the beginning or the end of the day. According to Emmons, the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.” It’s a powerful way to connect with your own “big why” for living.
2) Use Visual Reminders
Two obstacles to being grateful are forgetfulness and lack of awareness. You can counter them by giving yourself visual cues that trigger thoughts of gratitude: you can set alarms on your phone or tablet or make generous use of Post-It notes to remind you to pause and consider your blessings.
3) Live Out a Public Commitment to Gratitude
Find at least one other sojourner to hold one another accountable for growing gratitude in life!
In addition, consider: who can you thank? When and how will you do that? You may want to send up a prayer, send a card, make a phone call, or invite that person to lunch.