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Why we should be grateful and give thanks, even for 2020

Posted by Christina de Poitiers on
Why we should be grateful and give thanks, even for 2020
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, and, while this is a holiday mainly celebrated on the other side of the pond, maybe this year, we should adopt this celebration across the world for its sentiment, and take some time to give thanks and be grateful even for 2020, and all it has given us.

Gratitude is an expression of appreciation for what one has, whether tangible or intangible.

With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people tend to recognise that the origin of that goodness lies outside themselves.

You can be grateful for what you have, and express gratitude for what others have done for you, and for your good (and bad) fortune.

Life has been tough this year, for pretty much everyone, and it may seem challenging at first to think of anything great, there is still so much to be grateful for if we  just need to spend a little time looking for it.

Look for the view

AND SO MANY GREAT PEOPLE SWEAR BY IT.

A quick google brings up a pretty insightful list of quotes from some impressive, famous people. Maybe some of what they say will resonate with you.

Charles Dickens:

“Reflect upon your present blessings, for which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Zig Ziglar:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you recognise and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.”

Cicero:

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Buddha:

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

And we can't forget Oprah:

"Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you least feel thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest most powerful way to effect change in your life — this I know for sure."

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

The impact of the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health and it may seem challenging day-to-day to feel positive or to be grateful.  

But it has been shown in positive psychology research that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, report fewer symptoms of illness, including depression, are more resilient, and build strong relationships. And while it may seem like a spontaneous feeling, it can be practiced and cultivated.

Studies have shown that people who consistently wrote about gratitude became more optimistic and felt better about their lives. It had knock on effects too - they exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than the control group in the study. 

BUT WHY?

Well, it’s all in your head.

Brain studies by the NIH found that when you express kindness or feel gratitude, your hypothalamus floods your brain with dopamine. Giving you a natural high, and motivating you to continue this way.

The long term benefits are explained by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Centre, which found that regularly expressing gratitude actually changes the very molecular structure of your brain.

The brain

And the benefits are realised quickly too

In another study, when the participant’s assignment was “to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores.”

Furthermore, they found this impact to be greater any other intervention, and the benefits lasted for a month. Not to mention the positive benefit it gives to the person on the receiving end.

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

—Margaret Cousins

And so, while it might seem a trivial or minor thing to do, a couple of minutes of gratitude daily, may just be the thing to give you a boost. 

And what better way to improve your happiness, health, and generally make the world a better place, than to express gratitude to someone?

30 DAYS, 1 THANK-YOU PER DAY.

And so, I invite you, to take a step towards appreciation and for 30 days, practice one thank-you per day.

It is simple really:

Every day, for the next 30 days, take a few minutes to express gratitude or appreciation to someone, thanking them for something they have done for you.

Any reason goes! And the act can be knowing or unknowing. Any format goes too - there are many ways to say thank you, a card, letter, phone call, tik tok message, or perhaps an eco gift from your favourite Zero Waste Goods…). Whatever works for you.

We may be socially distanced but we don't have to be emotionally distant. 

Say thank you

But there’s one more thing...

Like many seemingly simple things, there’s a bit more to it than first meets the eye. The quality of the thanks is important - especially if you want to get the full benefit.

Quality? We hear you ask. What do you mean?

As lovely as they are, we’re not talking about the sort of everyday ‘throwaway thanks’ that make the world go round. We’re talking about a deeper level of gratitude here. And yes, quality means putting in a bit of mental effort.

But it’s worth it.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

—William Arthur Ward

So, with our resolve steeled, the next question is: How do you say quality thank you?

 

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