Gratitude, It’s Not Just for Thanksgiving Anymore

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.

gratitude journalStrangely, 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.

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16 Responses to “Gratitude, It’s Not Just for Thanksgiving Anymore”

  1. Regina Lark November 25, 2014 9:53 am #

    Andrea – this is a wonderful post. I love that you’ve incorporated your nightly gratitude ritual; I do similar in the morning – since 1982 … keeps my mind and heart in focus. Have a good rest of the week!

    • Andrea Sharb November 25, 2014 10:04 am #

      Thanks for commenting Regina. Since 1982, WOW! I appreciate you sharing that it keeps your mind and heart in focus. Nice. Hope you have a good rest of the week, too!

  2. Lisa Mallis November 25, 2014 10:04 am #

    I love that you didn’t “gobble” up my time! Great post! I hadn’t thought about how writing in the evening (when I didn’t have a FABULOUS day) would help reframe my thoughts into the positive right before falling asleep. LOVE THAT!

    • Andrea Sharb November 25, 2014 10:10 am #

      “LOVE THAT” you took the time to comment. The reframe is pretty powerful. I won’t lie, it can be tough some days, but the feeling on the other side is definitely worth any time and effort that goes into the process. Let me know how it works for you and Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Autumn Leopold November 25, 2014 12:12 pm #

    My mother just passed away suddenly November 8 and I am digging deep to remember all of the things I need to be thankful for this year and even with her death. It’s painful but enlightening at the same time. I so wish I could do a nightly journal, but our six year old runs us ragged. So when I can I do my prayers and thank you’s in a hot bath. Or I have been blogging A LOT. Some will be published and some may not be but it is my salvation right now. Happy Thanksgiving Andrea!

    • Andrea Sharb November 25, 2014 1:11 pm #

      Autumn, I am so sorry about the passing of your mother. I appreciate you working to dig deep and consider what you have to be thank full for and I hope your enlightenment eases the pain. As you’re probably already noticing the benefits of expressing gratitude can be reaped even if we don’t have the opportunity to write out what we’re grateful for. What’s important is the perspective shift and that’s possible even when we’re saying our “you’s in a hot bath.” I wish you peace this holiday season and am sending hugs your way.

  4. Nealey Stapleton November 25, 2014 1:42 pm #

    What a lovely post to read right before Thanksgiving! Thanks for writing it, and thank you for sharing it Andrea. I don’t keep a gratitude journal, but I do practice something like it every morning. I say out loud 3 things that I’m grateful for, I do a little bit of yoga and I listen to a song that inspires me. It has an awesomely positive ripple effect on my morning and my day as a whole. I highly recommend it!

    • Andrea Sharb November 25, 2014 2:01 pm #

      Thank you for stopping in and reading it Nealy! Thank you also for sharing your gratitude practice. It sounds very supportive and I can understand how it could send a “positive ripple” through your day. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Cameron Gott PCC November 25, 2014 1:58 pm #

    We also learned from Richard Boyatzis’ ICF presentation that our brains are wired to seek out the negative stimuli that create negative emotional responses – That it’s more effort to focus on the positive than the negative. Gratitude practices like this one remind us that we can turn the tide with good solid habit. Another positive for acknowledging positives is that it is a useful method to ‘bookmark’ projects and actions in our day. We can be so focused on what is next we forget to pause and look back.
    Great post, very timely!
    Thanks Andrea!

    • Andrea Sharb November 25, 2014 2:08 pm #

      Cam, thanks for bringing up Richard Boyatwzis’ ICF Presentation and that our brains are predisposed to seeking out the negative. It does take more effort to focus on the positive than the negative. I’ve noticed though that as time has passed, and I assume that as new neural connections are being created, it has become easier and easier to shift my focus to the positive. All the more reason to keep practicing. Thanks for stopping in to comment and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Linda Samuels November 25, 2014 9:08 pm #

    Gratitude, as you said, is not JUST for Thanksgiving. It’s something be mindful of every day. I’ve gone through periods (years) of keeping gratitude journals. At this point, instead of writing those thoughts daily, I find that I naturally appreciate and acknowledge what I’m grateful for. Even on the toughest days, there’s always the flip side of my experience. There’s light to be seen in the darkness. And I like seeking it out. It doesn’t mean that things aren’t challenging. It doesn’t mean that life is always rosy. But it does mean that there are things we see, hear, feel, smell, and touch that inspire gratitude within. Thank you for this wonderful reminder to make gratitude a regular part of our lives.

    • Andrea Sharb November 26, 2014 8:42 am #

      Linda, thank you for so eloquently expressing your thoughts and sharing how you express gratitude. One of the things that I most appreciate about you is that you are the person who seeks out the “light to be seen in the darkness.” It is a wonderful quality and one that I aspire to. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and enjoy your girls and the houseful of guests!

  7. Jill Robson November 26, 2014 9:38 am #

    You are right Andrea, we forget to celebrate the positive. As a family we have had some tough financial time lately and instead of feeling down about it, we chose to see the positives, we have a roof over our heads, we have food on the table, and we have our health. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Andrea Sharb November 26, 2014 11:05 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Jill and taking the time to comment. I love that your family has chosen to see the positives in light of your challenging circumstances. Thank you for providing a powerful example for my readers that we don’t have much control over the cards we’re dealt, but we do have control over how we respond and play our hands. I hope you and yours also have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  8. Andrea Nordstrom December 1, 2014 1:34 am #

    I am grateful for this simple yet poignant post. Thanks for the gentle reminder to remember our blessings, Andrea!

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