The Gift of Gratitude
Over Thanksgiving weekend I ruminated on gratitude, how it's a powerful state of mind and a touchstone in our lives, both individual and collective. How it appears to be inextricably linked to happiness.
Last week I read about a professor who is researching the healing power of thankfulness. In his study veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder are keeping gratitude journals, a list of the everyday things they are thankful for. So far the veterans report this exercise has allowed them to experience a greater sense of overall wellbeing.* It’s amazing such a modest act can help to antidote the nightmares of war.
I’ve kept such a journal for about five years. It’s a habit I adopted after learning of an earlier study wherein people who regularly recorded the things they were thankful for slept longer, exercised more frequently, and had fewer health complaints**. What a payoff! The study’s subjects were both healthier and happier for simply taking a few moments each week to be consciously grateful.
These little piggies made my gratitude journal this year.
Modest as my efforts are – usually just a few lines each week – I do believe it makes a difference. My micro-journaling creates a reflective moment, a meditation if you will, on the positive aspects of my life. Powerful stuff in a world where we tend toward the restless and acquisitive; toward a sense of never having enough; to wanting more, more, more.
Ironic, isn’t it, and painfully so, that the biggest shopping day of the year follows Thanksgiving.
As the winter holidays approach and 2008 winds to an end I plan to reflect and record thanks in my journal – and to spend some serious face time with the wonderful people who inhabit its pages and enliven my life.
* Research being conducted by Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University in Virginia. Information taken from the article, Give Thanks, in the December 2008 issue of Yoga Journal.
**Study conducted in 2003 by psychiatry professor Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis.