With the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching, the frequency of the word "Thanks" being said, whether as part of the holiday or by itself, certainly goes up. In thinking of the word, "thanks", my thoughts often drift to being happy. Happy for everything and everyone I am thankful for. During a moment of reflection I came to the notation that as much as I am in the counseling business, I am in the happiness business. I deal in happy. People come into my office with the goal of finding happiness. While happiness looks different from one person to the next, we all know it once we see it. We can feel it. When things don't look like right, as they didn't to Will Smith who portrayed Chris Gardner in the truly inspiring movie Pursuit of Happyness, he pointed it out - as evidenced in the clip below.
The challenge for each of us can be that there is an endless amount of things wrong in the world today. If the wrong has captured our focus then we begin to lose sight of all the right and good that is going on. The research actually shows that focus on the negative brings down our quality of life. Conversely a healthy dose of gratitude goes a long way.
A step toward experiencing joy and happiness is through the practice of gratitude. Practice. Yes, I said practice. (This makes me think back 15 years to Allen Iverson's memorable and comical rant about, you guessed it...practice!)
Gratitude benefits our daily lives in numerous ways including improved physiological health. It can even help motivate and thus improve performance within the work place by offering a "thank you" to those you work with. How does one practice gratitude? Here are five ways to cultivate happiness through the practice of gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal. All it requires is noting one or more things you are grateful for on a daily basis. No fancy notebook, no computer program required. Fun it up by putting a gratitude jar on the counter with slips of paper and a pen beside it. Each day add something to the jar. After a month or so review what all you were thankful for.
- Share your appreciation of something with someone ("It is a beautiful day out today.", "I am thankful for the rain to help things grow.", "I love how quiet it is in the morning, don’t you?").
- Give at least one compliment daily, directly to a person (loved one, co-worker). Stretch goal, write a thank you email, text, or even card once a week or month.
- If you identify something or someone with a negative trait (the heavy traffic, the slow poke driver in front of you), switch it in your mind to a positive trait (you have a car to drive to work, you have air conditioning to keep you cool/heat to keep you warm, you have a few extra minutes to listen to your favorite podcast).
- Vow to not complain, criticize, or gossip for a week. If you slip, rally your willpower and keep going. Notice how much energy you were spending on negative thoughts.
Taking these 5 steps can help you build up your gratitude skills as well as increase your mindfulness. This Thanksgiving as you draw near to those dear to you, think about making the practice of thanks more than just one day. Instead, allow the daily practice of gratitude guide you toward happiness.
I am grateful for...the opportunity to do what I do for a living, to get to know so many incredible individuals like yourself, the trust instilled in me by those who sit across from me, and to be able to journey alongside you in your 'pursuit of happyness'! Happy Thanksgiving!!