“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” -Aesop
As we enter the chaos of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget what this season is all about. Family. Friends. Togetherness. Cherishing the moment. Gratitude.
This year has been a wringer for everyone, no doubt. And yet, there are still so many reasons to be thankful. Let’s take a look at the heart of gratitude.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a bit multifaceted. Is it a trait or a state of being? Is it a pure, raw emotion, or a trained and deliberate habit?
Merriam-Webster defines it as, “the state of being grateful.”
Others, such as the Harvard Medical School, take it a step deeper:
“A thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis, has done extensive research on the psychology of gratitude and believes that gratitude begins with recognizing that life is good. That it is abundantly full of richness and blessings — although not all these blessings are purely material — and that life is worth living.
This acknowledgment then leads to a response.
It is a response to the blessings outside of ourselves rather than because of us. Things that came to us unearned, unwarranted, and maybe even undeserved. The people and relationships placed in our lives. The clean air we breathe and the clean water we drink. The freedom and safety of our land. The beautiful children at our tables. The bounty of food at our fingertips. The beauty of nature. The little things we take entirely for granted. The list goes on and on.
And, if we’re honest, even the things we do “earn” are often catalyzed by others’ generosity and goodwill.
And it is not just Dr. Emmons who believes this. In general, researchers, psychologists, and theologians all agree that gratitude is a response based on emotion, or mindset (often prompting an action) focused on appreciating those “good” things that are given to us.
Ways to Show Gratitude
If gratitude is genuinely an act of recognizing something bigger than ourselves, then the opportunities to show and demonstrate it are limitless. Especially in the holiday season. Here are just a few small ways you and your family can demonstrate gratitude and give back to those around you.
- Counting your blessings – Create a gratitude jar with your partner, spouse, or children and contribute to it every day. Start a gratitude journal. Make it a part of your mealtime and take turns sharing something you are thankful for.
- Pay it forward – At the Starbucks drive-through, the line at McDonald’s, or the man pumping his gas next to you. If someone has ever done it for you, you know how fabulous it feels.
- Spend time helping your community – Find local charities and nonprofits that need an extra hand during the season or ask an elderly neighbor if there is anything you can do to help them around their homes.
- Send a note – When was the last time you wrote someone to thank them for how they have contributed to your life? Or send a letter of encouragement, or even a simple, “I’m thinking of you!”
- Donate – We live in a land of bounty. Chances are you have got two (or three) of the same items in your home, and you never use them. Donate them to a homeless shelter or to someone who needs them more than you do.
- Practice not complaining – For a whole day. Just try it. When complain-y, grumbly words come to your mind, don’t let them out. Instead, think of something to express gratitude about. You might be surprised at how often you catch yourself.
- Acknowledge others – Tell your coworker you appreciate the effort they are putting into the group project. Thank your boss for how they take care of their employees. Tell the clerk at the grocery store a simple, “Thank you – I appreciate that!” for bagging your groceries.
At Hamilton Connections, we are sincerely grateful for all of you and what you make us as a company. Frankly, we wouldn’t be here without you. Wishing you and your families a happy, restful, and blessed Thanksgiving holiday!