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Count Your Blessings: In Praise of Gratitude

Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I thought the topic of gratitude would be appropriate. I’ve read several books recently that have gently reminded me to be conscious of how grateful I am for everything that is present in my life.  These books, in no particular order are, Never Too Late by Claire Cook, 21 Days to Master Success and Inner Peace by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and lastly, 21 Days to Master Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson. The 21-day series is based on the principle that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit.

Make Gratitude a Habit

The habit I’ve been working on is one of gratitude. Each morning before I get out of bed and each night as I drift off to sleep, I list all the things I’m grateful for. At first, I felt silly doing it, but if I’m going to be honest (and I am), I have never felt happier than now when I’m two months into my attitude of gratitude. I feel more optimistic about the future and am more able to cope with life’s daily ups and downs. My list gets longer each day too. I started off with the usual things such as I’m grateful for my husband, children, friends and colleagues, but as I’ve continued with this twice daily exercise, the list has become more granular. I’m grateful for electricity, my laptop, clean air and fresh running water, the food in my fridge, my house, the heating system that keeps the house warm in the winter. I’m grateful I live in a country that proclaims the freedom to pursue happiness as an inalienable right.

Grateful People are Happier

I did a little research on the subject of gratitude and my personal experiences from these past two months matches the research. Basically people who focus on the positive aspects of their life express a greater sense of well-being and contentment. In the studies by Peabody and McCullough (2003), they were able to show a connection between gratitude and increased happiness, desire to help others and even positive effects on sleep. When you think about it, it makes sense. On those days when you focus on the things that irritate you — you’re a knot of tension, unhappy and tend to only see the bad that’s around you. A positive and grateful focus naturally directs your mind to a more uplifting state. You’re less likely to think the world is out to get you. Which brings us to thanksgiving. Many cultures celebrate a day or days of thanksgiving. They recognize the need to stop and take a breath to realize all they’ve achieved and how grateful they are for the bounty that flows into their lives. The cornucopia dates back at least to the 5th century B.C. It’s the symbol of abundance otherwise known as the horn of plenty. To me, being grateful means not taking anything for granted. I also think it implies taking some sort of action on our part, such as working to achieve your goals and then paying it forward by helping others achieve their goals. If I’m grateful for the food I have, I must do something to help others that don’t have enough food, and so on.

Let Us Give Thanks

Our American celebration of Thanksgiving focuses on the food aspect of gratitude. This coming Thursday, as we pile our platters full of turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and the best pie ever — pumpkin pie, let us not forget the people that made it all happen. Since most of us don’t grow our own crops or raise turkeys, we need to be grateful to the farmers, food processors, truck drivers and grocery store personnel that work hard every day to bring the food to us. If our foods are imported, then we need to add shipping companies, their crews, the FDA, food inspectors…etc…the list goes on and on. We don’t live in a vacuum, we are all inter-connected. Before you dig into your abundant platters this Thursday, take some time to appreciate all that you have and then make a plan to help others. You’ll feel triply blessed, one for the food on your table, two for the realization of your many bounties and three for helping someone else experience that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Here are some links that may help you pay it forward:

http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/

http://www.goodnet.org/articles/1000 (clean water charities)

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