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An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is defined as a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift. When I was a kid, my mother was always saying, “Be thankful for what you have.” She especially said this when I was complaining about something that I didn’t have…it was annoying, to say the least!  At the time, I thought she wanted me to practice gratitude as a way of making others feel appreciated, that it was all about them!  

But now I have a very different perspective. A tremendous amount of research has shown that practicing gratitude is a sure-fire way to increase happiness and improve health. Melody Beattie, author of The Art of Living said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Wowza…that’s a powerful endorsement!  

Gratitude is a quality associated with stronger, healthier relationships, probably because research shows that those who practice gratitude are more generous, more willing to forgive, and more likely to offer emotional support and assistance. On top of better relationships, according to large study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University, thankfulness significantly decreased the risk of major depression, alcohol dependence, and drug abuse.

Knowing what I know now, I understand that my mother’s admonishment to be thankful for what I had was her way of saying don’t compare yourself to others.  Gratitude, which decreases anxiety and increases self-acceptance, helps people focus less on social comparison. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, when people compare themselves to others rather than appreciate what they have, their self-esteem suffers as they continually question who’s better.

So, not just in November when we celebrate Thanksgiving, but all year long, let’s practice gratitude, together!  Let’s offer thanks for all our gifts and for all those who show us kindness.  We’ll do it for them…but also for ourselves!  My mother passed away in 2018 but I’m quite sure she knows I finally get it!

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