This isn’t a long post, because I know you’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and I don’t want to “gobble” up your time. (Sorry, that was horrible, but I couldn’t resist.)
Thanksgiving as we all know is the day on which we express thanks or gratitude. Today I’d like to convince you to consider practicing gratitude more regularly.
A little over three years ago I began expressing thanks more regularly, daily in fact, in the form of a gratitude journal. Over the course of the past three years, practicing gratitude has become one of my few ongoing daily habits. You see, I don’t have many true daily habits. Even habits that are important to me, like “daily exercise” get skipped now and then.
Strangely, my nightly gratitude journaling habit has stuck. I think this is because of the profound impact this habit has on me each day.
You see, each time I record something in this journal I experience a noticeable shift. If it’s been an amazingly awesome day I get to relive the moments that made it so. This experience is guaranteed to bring an immediate smile to my face.
If it’s been a challenging day, I’m called to dig a little deeper within myself and consider what I’m grateful for. What positives can I derive from the day’s experiences? – Maybe a lesson learned or a reminder to handle a situation differently in the future. Though gratitude journaling on these days may or may not bring an immediate smile to my face, I certainly don’t find myself dwelling on my problems as turn off the light, which is something I spent countless nights doing before beginning my gratitude practice. My life experiences aren’t that different from they were before I began my gratitude practice. What is different is the way I choose to view those experiences.
So what does this have to do with overcoming overwhelm in your life?
Robert A. Emmons, PhD, an expert in the topic of gratitude, a leader in the positive psychology movement and a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis, states that gratitude is “choosing to focus on blessings rather than burdens, and gifts rather than curses.” Practicing gratitude cultivates a grateful and more positive mindset and as an added bonus, clinical trials have indicated practicing gratitude can have dramatic and lasting impact on a person’s life.
Emmons, in his first book Thanks stated that “Adults who keep gratitude journals on a regular basis exercise more regularly, report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future.” In addition he shared in his book Gratitude Works that the practice of gratitude “can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, promote happiness and well-being, and spur acts of helpfulness, generosity and cooperation.” So many positive benefits!
The biggest benefit is that when we live a grateful life we get to pay attention in a different way. We get to view life from a different perspective. A lot of overcoming overwhelm is about shifting our perspectives. We don’t often get to choose the cards that life deals to us, but we do get the opportunity to choose how we respond to those cards. Gratitude supports us in making those perspective shifts.
That feeling you experience on Thanksgiving when you take stock of what you’re thankful for is one that you can choose to experience daily. How might that choice positively impact your life?
Happy Thanksgiving to you. I’m grateful you took the time to read this post. If you’d like more information, I highly recommend checking out Emmons’ books – Thanks and Gratitude Works.