Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness to others. Georg Simmel (1858-1918) called it the moral memory of mankind, the foundation of social behavior that keeps society from breaking apart. In the US, Thanksgiving is the holiday that encourages us to be appreciative, but it should not be the only time of year when we bring gratitude into our lives, schools and classrooms. Over the past decade, research has shown that practicing gratitude has great social, physical and psychological benefits; increased happiness and life satisfaction, stronger immune systems or reduced anxiety and depression are just a few examples of how practicing gratitude can improve our lives. But where do you start?
Gratitude begins with an increased awareness of our own experiences, by looking within and paying attention to the small moments. As we become more mindful, we realize that we have choices when it comes to our emotions, thoughts and the way we perceive our surroundings. A second dimension of gratitude is the expression of appreciation, when we become active by doing something to show we are thankful. According to Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, this social dimension is especially important because “it is a relationship-strengthening emotion”. It brings us closer to others and builds strong connections.
Gratitude starts inside and flourishes through our expressions of kindness towards others. Practice, share it and enjoy the benefits of being grateful.
Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving holiday!