Well, it’s November, and Thanksgiving is on everyone’s minds. But as nice as Turkey Day is (and a shout out to all my Canadian friends who had theirs in October), gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving. In fact, a growing number of research studies show that people who make it a habit to feel grateful and express gratitude experience lower stress, higher contentment and greater resilience.
How do you get started? Try making a list of what you’re grateful for—and make sure to include intangibles as well as things. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- People, pets, mentors, helpers, heroes, role models, family, neighbors
- Weather, nature, beauty in all forms, art, music
- Surprises, serendipity, and grace
- Accomplishments, lessons learned, experiences never forgotten, goals, dreams and progress.
Gee, all that and not a “thing” in the list. Did you know that people who spend money and time on experiences report greater long-term satisfaction than those who sink all their disposable income into things? Nothing wrong with having things or even having nice things, but the truth is, most of us have way too many things and we’ve forgotten we even have much of what’s shoved into drawers and closets. So sure, go ahead and add the things for which your grateful to your list, but realize that compared to the first four categories, “things” don’t have the same lasting impact.
Now that you’ve made your list, try adding at least one thing to it every day. Make it a daily habit to reflect on all the items on your growing list (using a journal makes this easy). And realize that there is some reason for gratitude in every situation—even if it’s just a breath of thanks that whatever it is, isn’t worse.
Oh, and the next step? Amplify the “gratitude benefit” by expressing your thanks to the people around you. Call, email, write a note, send flowers, bake cookies or just give a hug. You’ll find that gratitude is catching. Pass it on.