Join me this week . . . as I focus on gratitude.
I’m writing this post on Friday morning . . . after a lovely Thanksgiving meal yesterday, with probably too much wine, followed by a good night’s sleep, and – of course – a piece of pie for breakfast this morning. Thus fortified, I decided to tackle this post, the last entry for my Week of Gratitude.
Also . . . the post that’s been stewing around in my mind for a couple of weeks, but that just wasn’t quite “jelling” for me. Until I stumbled onto a random post on Instagram the other day (one of those posts that just . . . shows up, unbidden, from someone you don’t even follow). So, thank you @drsamanathaborardman, for helping me pull a few random thoughts together.
What has been rumbling around in my brain is this: It’s easy to think about gratitude in November, and especially during the week of Thanksgiving. What’s more challenging, of course, is to keep thinking about it every day; to make it part of your life. To turn gratitude . . . into a verb.
I am one of those people who say “thank you” a lot. It was the way I was brought up, and I still say “thank you” . . . all the time. Including in situations and to people that I don’t need to “thank.” (Them: “Sorry, we’ve lost your order.” Me: “Okay, thank you.” What am I thanking them for, exactly???) Anyway. Saying “thank you” is important, but saying it like a robot doesn’t make gratitude . . . a verb.
I’ve often heard and read that people who “count their blessings” regularly are happier and healthier than people who don’t. This often takes the form of a “gratitude journal,” with practitioners regularly listing things that went well for them/things they are grateful for . . . their blessings. I know that this practice works really well for lots of people, but – true confessions – it doesn’t work for me (and I’ve tried). After a couple of days, my lists feel . . . trite, like something is missing. It makes me feel like I’m listing what makes me happy, which also doesn’t make gratitude . . . a verb.
Then I read this article in the Harvard Business Journal by Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson, “Stop Making Gratitude All About You” . . . and a little light bulb went on in my head. (It’s short; worth a read.) In the article, Halvorson explains that practicing gratitude . . . is a lot more than being thankful for what we have.
“Recent research suggests that people often make a critical mistake when expressing gratitude: They focus on how they feel — how happy they are, how they have benefited from the help — rather than focusing on the benefactor.”
— Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson
This . . . is starting to get me closer to how I might make gratitude . . . a verb.
It also meshes well with some of the research findings from Adam Grant (someone I do regularly follow). Grant’s studies also highlight that gratitude is not limited to a passive listing of our blessings, and that reflecting on what we’ve contributed – instead of what we’ve received – is even more powerful. (Here’s a link to a brief, recent article by Grant.)
“According to a popular mantra, we should give without remembering and receive without forgetting. Our reserach suggests otherwise: we should take the time to remember both what we’ve given and what we’re received.
So this Thanksgiving, don’t just count your blessings. Count your contributions, too.”
— Adam Grant
Here I am, on the day after Thanksgiving . . . (NOT shopping, thankfully) . . . trying to put my thoughts together on how to create a meaningful gratitude practice for myself — one that will last beyond Thanksgiving week, beyond the month of November. I’m feeling less bad about my personal distaste for the gratitude journaling thing . . . and more on track for finding a practice that will work for me.
Have I figured things out? Heck, no! But I do feel closer to figuring a few things out; how I might get closer to making gratitude . . . a verb.
Thanks for coming along for the ride during my Week of Gratitude.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart (and all the way to the top) for your friendship and the community we’ve created here.