The holiday season that commences with Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas and New Years is a favorite time of year for many of us. But if I were to ask why it is the best time of the year, I doubt anyone would honestly says it’s because of the hustle and bustle, the thoughts of buying and giving gifts, or even getting gifts (at least not most). Generally people say they love this time of year because of things like the spirit of joy, togetherness with family and friends and the overall gratefulness they feel when they can reunite and reminisce with friends and loved ones.
For most of us this special season starts with Thanksgiving Day getting together with family and friends to share a meal. Part of this ritual often includes time to let others in on what we are thankful for, which usually turns out to be something we already have; the loving family and friends we are with this day, the health we have, the life we have. One thing I acknowledged being grateful for this year is the nineteenth consecutive Thanksgiving Day that I have been able to join my kids and (marvelously, at least in my mind) run and finish a popular 5 mile road race.
According to research conducted at the University of California-Berkeley expressing gratitude for things (like a family road race) can have very positive effect on our brains. Science tells us that even that simple “thank you” that we all communicate to people every day, at stores, in businesses and other places helps us to sleep better, stay healthy, build greater self esteem and be more optimistic and happy, among other things.
But for me thanksgiving is more than just an occasional or seasonal thing that fades the day after Thanksgiving Day or when New Years ends. I have trained myself to think and say “thank you” every morning when I open my eyes. Thank you, of course for what my life has been blessed with. But also for the opportunity today offers me, with its many possibilities, to be greater, do better and be more accomplished at everything that I do.
You may disagree, (I’m pretty sure some will) but the truth is gratitude is a practice not a philosophy, or an emotion. It is a much overlooked and underutilized personal activity and mindset for creating positivism. It’s an simple undertaking with a tremendous upside. Thinking appreciation and giving thanks requires little time and it doesn’t cost a penny, but the advantage reaped (the science and otherwise) can be life changing, moment by moment all day long.
So while you are enjoying togetherness with family and friends and feeling the overall gratefulness that will abound just about everywhere for the rest of this holiday season consider this. Training yourself to start every day counting your blessing, not just the past good, but for what is to come today (as I do) will lead to more and more blessings.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently put it, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”