Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Canada, Armistice or Remembrance Day in Ireland) has just passed. It seems November is a month to be thankful. Perfect time for a post about gratitude!
“Thank you, and have a nice day!”
If we’re honest, the perceived insincerity of that statement can sometimes be enough to send our minds spinning. The self-righteous side of us screaming inside – “they shouldn’t say it if they don’t mean it”. “They are not truly grateful that I purchased that cup of coffee, are they?
Really? So, that barista should look stone-faced at us instead of wishing a nice day because their boss told them they should?
Another pet peeve: when someone drones “thaaaaanksss” while vaguely waving their their hand about for her money without making even glazed eye contact. It just doesn’t ring true sometimes does it? But then hey! Maybe the person is having a bad day. Assumptions – and judgements – are dangerous. But that’s for another day..
And so – we feel insulted when we encounter a service associate who is offhand, distracted or even grumpy. But we also expect a sincere, heartfelt ‘thank you’ from a service associate who is just doing their job.
What about when children accept a compliment or gift and we insist they look at the person and say ‘thank you’? Isn’t that completely insincere? Kids probably don’t even know or understand what they are saying thank you for, for goodness sake. As a mother of small children, Tanya will admit to cringing inside when her daughters receive something and, to quote her, “act like ungrateful, spoiled children.” Yes, she does say (or at least think) that. Usually, they are just behaving like children – excited (or sometimes even disappointed) by the gesture or gift. They just react without the ‘social filter’ we have donned as adults. The cringing is really about why her kids can’t act like cultured adults.
Oh the future therapy bills will be enormous. (Sally’s retirement fund is counting on it…;))
Okay, we admit that over the years we have come down off that precariously high horse, and realized a thing or two. Or three. And by the time we’re done and scattered by that big ol’ tree we’ll both have realized a couple more.
But let’s get to it. The science supports it. Looking at positive, happy pictures and people makes us feel happier. Doing things for others makes us feel better too. Researchers have identified that merely writing down statements that reflect things we are grateful for increases our happiness quotient, lessens our stress and might even increase our motivation to exercise!
Sign us up, people.
All the current research on happiness, in the area of positive psychology, and everything that probably our grand parents and great grandparents knew without ever having to read a book, suggests that the simple act of being grateful increases our happiness factor. And we are talking about the feeling and act of gratitude – not the receiving something to be grateful for part.
It seems simple, right? Then why aren’t we all mindful, gratitude-oozing beings, brimming over with happiness?
Because there is also evidence – philosophical and otherwise – that supports the belief that true gratitude is something that we experience more (and perhaps only) with maturity and practice. Children taught to say ‘Thank You” are indeed parroting a social nicety. Not necessarily a bad thing. “Fake it ’til you make it” is one of the ways we learn to change old habits and create new, better ones. Even us adults, if pressed, will acknowledge that we feign gratitude because it is generally the acceptable and proper thing to do, at a social standards level. Sets us apart from the animals as it were.
What is gratitude? Well, the simple definition suggests it is a readiness to show appreciation for (an item or experience) and to return kindness.
Simple in concept, difficult to apply. Especially when we as a culture seem to be so focused on what we do not have, what we are trying to get, and why everybody else is to blame for not having it yet.
The more we think about this, the more it seems that gratitude is strongly tied to a belief in something greater than ourselves. A belief that we as a race are intrinsically linked. That we can be genuinely thankful, grateful, for the experiences, people and things in our life. Despite not having all that we wish for at this particular time. Despite it being really hard sometimes. It goes hand in hand with that ability to be mindful and present in the moment. (In that vein, have a peek at a Mindfulness Techniques cheat-sheet we pulled together for you. We’ve kept it simple. Baby steps. For beginners. And a refresher for those of you more experienced folk.)
So, this Thanksgiving, we ask you all to be mindful. Notice and be grateful for what you have rather than what you do not have. Remember people, situations, things that bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye. Because we are thankful for them. Because they have made us who we are and for that we are grateful. And if you find that task impossible, then we suggest you start working on being grateful for yourself. If you cannot accept who you are right now, right here – well that is a truly a shame but an excellent place to start!
If you struggle – like most of us do – with where to start when practicing gratitude, we have created a handy-dandy list of 10 Tips for Practicing Gratitude.
In the spirit of gratitude, we are truly grateful for our readers and followers. We are grateful and blessed to have the health and the intention to share our thoughts and experience. We are grateful for each other.
And we really hope you stay safe in the holiday slaughter (we mean ‘shopping’ spree) that happens the day after Thanksgiving. Right after celebrating with our nearest and dearest all things thankful, let’s all run out and act deranged while trying to get the best deal on items that we hope will make someone happy.
Now there’s irony for you! Or is it? ( This TedEd clip that helps define irony is super fun to watch, so had to include it here).
P.S. We know happitude is not a word. But it should be.