Coach John Wooden emphasized the importance of being thankful by quoting Lao Tse: “Freedom from desire leads to inner peace.” He also added his own words of wisdom: “The great secret of life is to cultivate the ability to appreciate the things we have, not compare them.” Coach often encouraged us to not take for granted the many things we have that we did nothing to earn, such as life itself, the beauty of nature, the great country we live in, or the love of our family and friends.
Science has fallen over itself proving how gratitude makes you not only a warmer person but a healthier one. “Previous research has linked gratitude to improved mental health, lower levels of anxiety and improved sleep,” says Blaire Morgan, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Birmingham in England. “Our own research has demonstrated a strong link between gratitude and three different measures of well-being: satisfaction with life, subjective happiness and positive affect.”
The idea of the gratitude journal, as with most of your leading forms of mindful personal development (meditation, controlled breathing, ringing the Salvation Army bell, doing yoga in a 105-degree closet), is theoretically wonderful, a warmly resonant concept designed to blast rays of sunshine into your dull cement world of commutes and credit card APRs and Facebook. Gratitude journals are the opposite of work-intensive, requiring only a pen, pad and a handful of quiet moments. You can keep them anywhere. They’re meant to be mentally refreshing, spiritually invigorating, and free of expectation or reciprocation—a crystal-blue example of pure instinctual human goodwill.
“Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.”
I believe one of the greatest lessons in life we can learn is to be thankful for what we already have. But gratitude is something we have to work at—to prepare our hearts to be reflective and thankful, to provide room for contemplation of our good fortune.
And if we want to be the kind of people who are characterized by thankfulness, by gratitude, then we must make sure that we focus on it at all times during the year.
It’s a simple phrase. Short. Sweet. But how often does it actually come out of your mouth? It’s kind of surprising how hard it really is to make saying thanks a “thing”—something that comes naturally, that you don’t have to put on your to-do list.
It can slip your mind. You’re not sure how to say it, or show it. And sometimes it feels awkward (complimenting—giving and receiving—doesn’t come easily to everyone).
But none of these excuses gets ride of people’s innate need to feel valued and appreciated, to be praised and recognized, for their work.
Every night as you’re getting ready to go to bed, spend a few minutes thinking of all of the things that you were grateful for during that day. This is especially important when you’ve had a bad day and it seems as though there is nothing to give thanks for.
I understand this can take work, especially when negative emotions are getting the best of you, but this is important. Sometimes you just have to push yourself. Maybe you closed a deal with a business associate or had a few laughs with a friend. Maybe you received a compliment. Or maybe you did something nice for someone or someone did something nice for you and it lifted your spirits. It can be as small as a snack you enjoyed or a parking space you snagged. Believe me, you’ll come to find that it’s well worth the effort because you will be creating an attitude of gratitude, a habit that’s conducive to making you feel good and enjoy your life.
Are you a grateful person? Thankful for the good things, big and small, in your life?
In the hustle of to-do lists and work deadlines, sometimes it’s (too) easy to block out the details of the day, forgetting that each and every day holds precious gifts. From the air we breathe to the friendships we hold close, there is always something to be thankful for.
With the season of thanksgiving upon us.
Philosophers have long known that as the mind goes, so go the emotions. A pithier way to say that would be, we become what we think.
Along with neurological chemistry, people with depression are often caught in “negative feedback loops.” Someone feels negative, so they think—i.e., tell themselves—negative thoughts. Those negative thoughts reinforce the original negative feelings leading to more negative thoughts… and down and down we go.
Fortunately, that downward spiral also works in reverse, not by first feeling positive and then thinking positive thoughts, but instead by intentionally thinking positive thoughts that lead to genuinely positive emotions.