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Tagged with " gratitude"
12 Dec
2017

Being Grateful Makes Me Happy

 

“Every day, think as you wake up, ‘I am fortunate to be alive.  I have a precious human life.  I am not going to waste it.’”  The Dalai Lama

baby and father, hands, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

being grateful makes me happy, blog, bev scott author

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the season of gratitude. I express my gratitude for friends and family around the Thanksgiving table. I am grateful for the news and greetings I receive from those who live far away. I enjoy the exchange of gifts and goodies, the fragrance of the beautiful decorated trees and cookies baking in the oven at this holiday time.

Like many of my neighbors, I am concerned about the poverty and homelessness around me. I see strangers huddled in doorways, panhandling on the street, pushing shopping carts of belongings. I whisper a prayer “for the grace of God there go I.” Gratitude allows me to recognize how fortunate I am, to appreciate my life and all that I experience. It gives me an opportunity to shift my perspective toward all the abundance I have in my life instead of feeling sorry for what I lack or the problems I have.

Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

The renowned neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks, wrote shortly before he died,

…my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”[i]

Despite his diagnosis of metastasized cancer Dr. Sacks was grateful for his life and he was happy. Brother Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk and scholar is quoted in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, saying, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful.  It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”

The Benefits

Indeed, research endorses that perspective and suggests there are many benefits that might motivate us to be grateful more often, even every day. At least forty research studies identify over thirty ways in which gratitude can benefit our lives. Amit Amin categorizes them into Emotional, Health, Social, Personality and Career benefits, all of which contribute to happiness.

Different benefits are probably more appealing to different age cohorts. For me personally, I like the health benefits of improved sleep, living longer, increased energy and feeling good. Since I am retired the benefits for my career are less motivating, but if you are still in the midst of yours the career benefits of gratitude include being a better manager, achieving your goals and being more productive. If you are a young person and concerned if you are well liked in your social circles, consider that being grateful open doors to relationships, deepens friendships, increases your self-esteem, and develops your personality in life changing ways.

orange tabby cat, in lap, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

outstretched arms, sunset, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can all appreciate the emotional benefits of gratitude: being more resilient and bouncing back from stress, reducing aggression and being less likely to retaliate, feeling good, less envious, more relaxed and enjoy happier memories. Many of us also, will like the benefit of improved relationship with partners and spouses. Amazing how many benefits gratitude can bring to our lives! Are you convinced yet?

When and How

Maybe you are wondering how to go about it or how to remember to be grateful as you lead your busy stressful life. Gratitude doesn’t require us to be religious, to have any particular skill nor have a gratitude gene. Feeling grateful can happen in the unexpected moment of seeing a beautiful sunset or getting a hand-written note of thanks from a friend. We might experience gratitude when the health scare turns out to be benign. We can experience gratitude in prayer or meditation. Brother Steindl-Rast leads us through “A Grateful Day,” reminding all of us that this is not just another day in our lives.  “It is the one day that is given to you…today.”

Take five minutes daily to express your gratitude for the day that is given to you, for the abundance in your life, and for the experiences that inspire you by writing in a gratitude journal. Will the demonstrated results of daily gratitude described above motivate us to take that 5 minutes? Maybe it is easier to just to use the first few waking minutes of your day to reflect on what brings you gratitude. Or when you see a beautiful sight, taste a delicious bite of food or hear an inspiring piece of music to pause and express your gratitude.

Another approach is to sign up for a daily gratitude message from Deborah Purdue which comes in on your email to remind you each day. Sign up for these beautiful messages with gorgeous color illustrations at www.graceofgratitude.com.  Being grateful doesn’t cost anything, takes very little time, gives you many benefits and makes you happy.

calendula, single flower, bev scott authororanges, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful to you who read my blog and support my work as a writer. Thank you.

[i] Oliver Sacks, “My Own Life” in “Gratitude”, Alfred Knopf, 2015.  Also published in New York Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

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6 Dec
2015

Imagining Thanksgiving on the American Prairie

Photos ThanksgivingI think about my grandmother often since I am working on the revisions of my novel, a fictionalized version of her life and the life of my grandfather. As I did the genealogical research on my grandparents, I was reminded that she was born one 145 years ago just before Thanksgiving. So this a time for me to honor her birth as well as to be grateful for her inspiration.

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving in Ireland where a dear friend cooked us a delicious traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Ireland is a country that doesn’t celebrate this most American of holidays. Thinking of my grandmother, I wondered how she might have celebrated Thanksgiving and her birthday which would have often fallen on Thanksgiving Day. I have no clues from my own family traditions. My curiosity led me to explore some of the history of one of the most favorite of American holidays. Thanksgiving combines the ancient traditions of harvest festivals and the religious observances of the Puritans grateful and giving thanks for their survival after a year of sickness and scarcity.

We learn as children in school about the Pilgrim story of Thanksgiving. But I had no idea that earlier ceremonies by other British Colonists and Spanish explorers in North America occurred before the Plymouth celebration of 1621. Although Thanksgiving in the colonies became a regular event by the middle of the 17th century, the first national Thanksgiving was proclaimed in 1777 by the Continental Congress. The early Presidents continued to proclaim a national day of Thanksgivings but it was not an official holiday. In fact, by the middle of the 19th century Thanksgiving was limited to individual state observances and had evolved from the religious and civil day of commemoration and giving thanks to a family holiday of feasting. President Lincoln was convinced to declare a national holiday in 1863 in an effort to unite the war-torn country. Lincoln’s successors proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day each year. It became a fixed annual celebration in 1941 when Congress established the fourth Thursday of the month of November as Thanksgiving.

Imagining Thanksgiving

Old Thanksgiving images

Without any family stories or traditions, I turned to my imagination about how my grandparents might have celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Since it was not a firm national holiday and observed differently by state, my grandparents, as struggling homesteaders, might not have even celebrated Thanksgiving. Certainly after my grandfather died leaving my grandmother in dire and impoverished circumstances, her ability to provide an extravagant feast would have been very limited. Yet, the tradition of acknowledging God’s blessings and giving thanks would have been important to my grandmother as I remember her. I imagine that when the President of the United States did declare a day of Thanksgiving, which may or may not have been in November, that she probably commemorated the day. She may have cooked something special and I am convinced that she would ensure that she and her children offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings in their lives. I also imagine that she ignored or discounted any celebration of her November birthday as too frivolous and extravagant.

What are Your Traditions?

Do you have inherited family traditions on Thanksgiving? What do you imagine your grandparents or great grandparents did to celebrate a day of family feasting or to express gratitude and give thanks in their faith on Thanksgiving Day? Please post your comments and share your stories below.

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