Every thanksgiving, I invite my dinner guests – mostly our adult children – to share what they have been thankful for over the past year. The request is generally met with a great deal of eye rolling and deep sighs. I think they think it’s just another game, like charades, that their mom/stepmom makes them play every year.
But being grateful and expressing gratitude is so much more.
Not long ago, I received a very heartfelt thank you note from one of my former employees. She used the occasion of my stepping away from the company I started 33+ years ago to tell me how grateful she was for something I did for her five years before, that frankly, while I remember doing it, had no idea it had impacted her in such a profound way. In fact, all of her mentions of gratitude had nothing to do with her actual work, and everything to do with her personal life. She told me that the act of writing the note and sending it, gave her great pleasure, not to mention how I felt upon receiving it.
It was such a meaningful experience for both of us, I decided I would work on expressing gratitude more easily for myself, because the more we practice giving thanks, the easier it becomes to make giving thanks a practice. Since receiving that note, I have focused on both being grateful and sharing with others the gratitude I feel. And in the process discovered that what the psychologists say about gratitude is actually true.
They point out that the benefits of expressing gratitude range from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude are also more likely to offer emotional support to others. Habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being.
On this Thanksgiving weekend, I will once again be asking the kids, and now their partners and spouses, to share what they’re grateful for. While I’m expecting more eye rolling, I also know that learning to become comfortable expressing gratitude is a gift in itself.