Tis the Season to Be Jolly and Practice Gratitude
Getting through the holiday season on a high-note.
‘Tis the season to be jolly. But holiday cheer isn’t a one-size-fits-all package of joy. For some, the festive season is more like a rollercoaster of emotions, with loops of sadness, anxiety, and the occasional stomach-churning drop of depression. For those of us navigating the holiday madness feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed, science has a little nugget of wisdom for you – gratitude.
Recently, my son Ethan, who’s studying Latin, informed me that the term “gratitude” originates from the Latin word “gratia,” involving grace, graciousness, and gratefulness. And gratitude manages to encompass all of these meanings. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of positive vibes – a thankful appreciation for whatever life throws your way, be it tangible treasures or those intangible warm fuzzies.
With gratitude, you’re not just tipping your hat to the universe; you’re throwing it a thank-you parade. It’s about acknowledging the goodness in your life – recognizing that the source of all this goodness isn’t just a solo act. It’s like joining a cosmic ensemble where the harmony comes from connections beyond your individual self – whether it’s with other humans, Mother Nature, or the higher power you occasionally nod to when you need a parking spot.
In the world of positive psychology, gratitude is the VIP at the party. It’s not just sipping cocktails in the corner; it’s the life of the party, bringing greater happiness along for the ride. Gratitude, it turns out, is the secret sauce that sprinkles positive emotions on your everyday experiences, boosts your health, helps you tackle adversity with a superhero cape on, and builds relationships that even rom-coms would envy.
Flexing your gratitude muscles is about navigating the past, present, and future with a thankful twist. Reflect on the past, appreciate the current strokes of luck as they come, and maintain a hopeful attitude for the future. Gratitude is a quality you can cultivate like a fine wine or a questionable indoor plant.
Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami are the Sherlock and Watson of the gratitude world, delving into the human psyche to uncover the secrets of thankfulness.
In their quest, these researchers conducted a study that involved participants penning weekly sentences on specific topics. One group chronicled their gratitude-inducing moments, another vented about daily annoyances, and a third nonchalantly scribbled about events that stirred their emotional pot without specifying positive or negative vibes. Lo and behold, after 10 weeks, the gratitude scribblers emerged as the unsung heroes of optimism, basking in the glow of a better life. And, they weren’t just flexing their mental muscles; they were hitting the gym more and making fewer pit stops at the doctor’s office compared to their grumble-focused counterparts.
Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, another luminary in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, decided to test the impact of various interventions on human happiness. Picture him as the wizard experimenting with different spells to conjure joy. When participants were tasked with writing and delivering a gratitude-filled letter to an unsung hero in their lives, the happiness scores soared. This intervention outshone all others, with the benefits enduring for a month. Romantic relationships, too, are influenced by gratitude. Couples expressing thanks not only looked more positively on their relationship, but also found it easier to work through concerns about their union.
The working world isn’t immune to the power of gratitude. A simple “thank you” isn’t just polite; it’s a motivational spell. Wharton School researchers worked with university fundraisers, splitting them into two groups. The first group toiled away with standard alumni donation calls, while the second group, serenaded by a gratitude-infused pep talk, outshone their counterparts by making a whopping 50% more fundraising calls the following week. Gratitude, it seems, is the enchanting elixir of workplace engagement.
In the theater of life, gratitude takes center stage as the unsung hero, a force that transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. It’s not just a fleeting emotion but a profound mindset that reframes our perspective, directing our gaze towards the richness of what we already possess, rather than the allure of what we covet.
To embark on the journey of gratitude is to recognize the power in appreciating the present, a rebellion against the ceaseless pursuit of novelty and an acknowledgment that contentment need not be tethered to the fulfillment of every material desire.
An easy option is a thank-you. A simple act that bridges hearts and fosters a profound connection. Penning a thank-you note serves as a dual-purpose charm, not only elevating your own happiness but also nurturing the bonds that define human relationships. Consider the impact of delivering your expressions of gratitude – a gesture that resonates in the shared space of genuine connection. Challenge yourself to sprinkle gratitude generously, aiming for at least one per week, and don’t shy away from occasionally directing that appreciation inward, crafting a letter to yourself.
For those swift moments when the quill eludes you, a mental acknowledgment can be the secret incantation. Take a pause to reflect on the benevolence bestowed upon you by others, sending silent waves of gratitude to those who have left an indelible mark on your journey.
On the weekly rendezvous with your blessings, let the pen dance on the parchment, capturing the positivity. Assign yourself the delightful task of identifying three to five blessings, each recounted with vivid specificity. Allow the sensations of joy, gratitude, and accomplishment to permeate the pages as you chronicle the instances when life unfolded as a benevolent conspirator.
Mindfulness meditation can allow gratitude to take on a contemplative dance. As you focus on the present moment without judgment, let your thoughts embrace the warmth of the sun, the melody of a pleasant sound, or any other facet of existence that elicits a sense of gratitude. Here, in the stillness of meditation, gratitude becomes a silent hymn, harmonizing your inner world with the cadence of appreciation.
In the pursuit of gratitude, we don’t just count our blessings; we become architects of a life adorned with appreciation. Let gratitude be your guide, and in recognizing the beauty woven into everyday existence, watch as the ordinary transforms into the extraordinary.
I’m grateful you’ve read my note.