Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness to others. German sociologist Georg Simmel (1858-1918) called it the moral memory of mankind, the foundation of social behavior that keeps society from breaking apart.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is the holiday that encourages us to be appreciative and although 2020 has been a year of many struggles and difficulties, the opportunities to be grateful abound. Even if we are not able to get together with our extended families and friends over a wonderful meal, we can still practice gratitude.
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, given the challenges that we are living through?
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, one of the world’s leading scientific experts 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 that fuel our ability to move forward with more resilience.
A third dimension of gratitude is an intentional appreciation of the self–who we are as individuals, our strengths and all the people who have contributed to who we are. In an earlier post, I shared strategies to help you cultivate a grateful mindset for self.
Gratitude starts inside and flourishes through our expressions of kindness towards others and ourselves. Practice, share it and enjoy the benefits of being grateful. As for me, I am grateful for all of you. Your support and dedication to children fill my bucket.
Wishing you all a safe Thanksgiving holiday.