Welcome to the November newsletter from Generation Connection, a service designed to encourage you to capture your own memories as well as the memories of the people that you love. The big holiday this month is—of course— Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving not only brings the celebratory —albeit perhaps unofficial—close to one of my favorite seasons—autumn, it also holds the promise of my favorite food. Who doesn’t like pumpkin pie? Well, I suppose there may be a few of you out there... And it doesn't have a lot of other things we have to do—such as presents to buy, or cards to send, or decorations to put up.
Thanksgiving also sharpens our focus on gratitude—an emotion that focuses on what you have instead of what you don't. We’ll all soon be taking time to acknowledge what we’re grateful for as we sit around the Thanksgiving table. Although everyone would agree that it’s a nice gesture, what good is gratitude? According to psychologists, gratitude not only can increase your level of well-being and happiness, it can also help you have more energy and look at life more optimistically—especially when you express your gratitude to others.
Dr. Robert Emmons is a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis and the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. According to "the gratitude scientist"—as he is unofficially known—it's hard to be depressed and grateful at the same time.
Here are some tips from this expert on how to increase your own gratitude level.
Ten Tips to Make You Happier
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. What have I received from __? What have I given to __? and What troubles and difficulty have I caused?
4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed.
8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance.
9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.
These are just some of the ways that we heighten of awareness of just how much there is to be thankful and joyful about. There's a Chinese proverb that says, "When you drink from a stream, remember the spring." It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind and go through life only concerned about what you’re doing five minutes, an hour or a day from now without taking a moment to be grateful for what is—right now in this moment as well as the source of those blessings. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he counseled, "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously."
Sometimes when a person or a situation causes us pain or distress, it's a good idea to pause and just be thankful that things are as good as they are. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and author, once said, "Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice...It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of complaint."
What in your life has engendered a feeling of gratefulness? What are the good things in your life for which you are grateful? What are the not so good things that you might find a way to be grateful for as well? Gratitude, after all, is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full.
Take a few minutes to list five things for which you are thankful. This month would be the perfect time to jot down those ideas and share them at your Thanksgiving dinner. Please share your recollections with me at Karen@generationconnection.net.
Warmest of regards,
The graphic is courtesy of artist Greg Sargent.
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