gratitude photo

Gratitude

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many people are talking about what they’re grateful for. It’s kinda like how on Valentine’s Day we all tell each other we love one another. 

Well, you know what? It’s okay. 

Whether the reason is a Hallmark Holiday or your daily practice, feeling and expressing gratitude is good for you on so many levels. 

You can’t hold two emotions at the same time, so if you’re feeling gratitude, you’re not feeling a multitude of other emotions, many times negative ones. 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ~Cicero

Interestingly, gratitude did not make Aristotle’s list of virtues. It makes sense from the point of view of the American culture why it did not. Americans are conditioned to think that your success comes from you. Your hard work, your ability to do something. We forget that it takes a village. 

“No man is an island.” ~ John Donne

We all know that in order to land that perfect job, it’s not about what you know, but WHO you know. We know that it takes a village to help us raise our kids. But we don’t want to admit that we need help from time to time. We think it somehow signifies weakness and indebtedness to others. 

Think of Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny – “wouldn’t it be horrible if you won every case you tried, but at the end of the day you would have to say thank you to someone? Oh my gaawwd!”

Gratitude is closely related to trust. Trusting someone else means being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not something most people are comfortable with. And yet, gratitude has a three-fold function – it means someone (a benefactor) has done something for someone else (the receiver) and that act of kindness is recognized, it motivates the receiver to act more kindly towards the benefactor (and hopefully others in general), and it stimulates the benefactor to continue to do nice things for others in the future. 

Gratitude expressed helps us feel better about ourselves and others, and reinforces a sense of well-being and happiness. Let’s unpack this a little…

We feel better about ourselves because it takes the pressure off of us to have to feel responsible for doing everything ourselves. It helps us feel better about others because we know someone cares enough about us to help (solicited or not). It increases our sense of well-being because we feel cared for, and our sense of happiness because we know we are not alone and receiving makes us feel happy. I’m going to venture out on a small limb here and add that increased well-being and happiness also increases health. During these winter months with illness abound, it may play a part in keeping us healthy. 

What’s best about gratitude is that it works whether or not you make it public. Feeling grateful internally gives you access to all the benefits, expressing it outwardly brings you closer to others and compounds the benefits. Like doing yoga at home gives you all the benefits of yoga, and doing it with others magnifies those benefits even more. 

So this Thanksgiving, no matter how stressful it can be, find something to be grateful for and/or someone to be grateful to and give yourself the gifts of gratitude!