Giving thanks all year longGratitude: We all acknowledge the inherent value of being grateful — at least we do on the fourth Thursday in November. We fill our mouths and our stomachs with too much good food and spend a moment or a mealtime pondering the things for which we are thankful.
By: Jill Pertler, Superior Telegram
Gratitude: We all acknowledge the inherent value of being grateful — at least we do on the fourth Thursday in November. We fill our mouths and our stomachs with too much good food and spend a moment or a mealtime pondering the things for which we are thankful. We may even go around the table and name them. Then, after stuffing ourselves with a second slice of pumpkin pie with extra whipped cream, please — we settle on the couch to let the tryptophan do its work, and we call it a holiday.
Some things, like cranberry soufflé and Aunt Elsa’s homemade pecan pie are best left to special meals. Other dishes should be at the center of our table 365 days a year. Gratitude is one of them.
Excuse me here, while I take a moment to hop on my soapbox.
Sometimes I fear we live in a society where gratitude is saved for the fine China; and the attitude we dish out every day is more likely to contain a hefty portion of entitlement. It happens to the best of us. I see it at my house.
They mow the grass, and believe they should be paid. They take $20 to go on the class field trip and forget to bring back the change. They know when the family cell phone contract is due and believe they should get a new phone — just because they can. When they leave their bike behind the minivan and it gets run over, they naturally assume we’ll buy a new one.
Our culture has become more attuned to instant gratification than long-lasting gratitude. As a parent, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit it’s partially my fault. Maybe it’s all my fault. Either way, I feel a responsibility to remedy the situation.
Earlier this year, my family started a gratitude list. It’s comprised of a bunch of pieces of paper taped to the wall in the kitchen — very fancy. When we encounter something that invokes gratitude, we write it on the papers provided. We’ve got a variety of listings. Some are plainly obvious: we are thankful for pens, gratitude lists and paper. Others are of the expected sort: school, friends, family, God and sunshine. Finally, there’s the more unexpected: bleach (my entry after a day spent cleaning), air “condishinging,” (misspelled by my 9-year-old on a hot summer day), yard work – when it’s done (my husband’s contribution) and driving (courtesy of one of the teenagers).
Some days, we don’t write anything down. That’s OK. The exercise is meant to get us thinking about our attitudes. Cheesy, I know, but there are substantive and scientific reasons to practice gratitude.
Psychologists and other brain experts say gratitude increases our happiness and general satisfaction with life. Compound that with the fact that happy people tend to be healthier. In addition, expressions of gratitude motivate others to express their own thankfulness — sort of like a pay-it-forward gratitude grapevine.
Gratitude grows and brings positive outcomes when it does. In a society where people are often focused on individual satisfaction and happiness, it seems like gratitude works to provide us with exactly that, and more. Best of all, we can try gratitude for ourselves anytime, anywhere, with no strings attached — because it’s free.
So, whether you’re having turkey dinner on a Thursday in November, or spaghetti and meatballs on a Monday in February, you might want to take a moment to pass gratitude around the table. It compliments a variety of meals, and in addition to its other benefits, gratitude has no calories. (Thank goodness for that.)
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. Email her at email@example.com; or visit her website at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com.