By: David Freund
Have we lost the ability to be grateful? Have we as a nation lost perspective? Have we forgotten how truly blessed we are?
My mom and her parents fled Europe as the winds of war began to blow in the late 1930s. As a seven-year-old, she recalls going to the butcher shop near their home and asking the butcher for a nickel’s worth of bologna, sliced thin. She also shared that dinner was often one piece of meat, cooked in fat. The meat was for my grandfather. My mom, aunt, and grandmother would dip a slice of bread in the drippings. They were poor, but you would never hear them say that. They were always grateful for the blessings they had rather than musing about the things they did not. My grandmother was one of the most grateful people I have ever met. What did she know that we do not?
Intentionally focusing on being grateful has a tremendous impact on every aspect of our lives. According to Amit Amin of Happierhuman.com, a study showed that a daily five-minute gratitude journal practice could increase your well-being by more than 10%. That is the same impact as doubling your income. He went on to add that gratitude makes us healthier. We have fewer ailments, less pain, more sleep, and the sleep we have is of a higher quality. Amin identified 31 benefits of having an attitude of gratitude ranging from personal happiness to increased productivity and career advancement.
A 2015 Newsweek article by Douglas Main reported that grateful people are not only healthier, but more hopeful. Athletes who expressed more gratitude toward their coaches had greater self-esteem. The article also noted grateful people tend to be more empathetic.
So how does it work? Well, my grandmother lingered over life’s blessings. It was that simple; she spent time reflecting on the blessings she had in her life. She would have had plenty to complain about, but she chose not to. She lived in the moment and didn’t dwell in the past or long for some future time. Being grateful allowed her to leave fear behind, even though a totalitarian regime took her father and brother away, never to be seen again. As long as I was blessed to have her in my life, she was a joyful person. She was one of those people who brightened any room she entered.
The best way to cultivate gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. You are combining the benefit of reflection and journaling with the intentional act of creating a more positive mindset. Next week is Thanksgiving. Why not give it a try over the next week and let me know how you make out. You will not regret it. I promise!