Attitude of Gratitude

Guest Post By CATHERINE VAN HERRIN

Every holiday season, we’re all reminded of how much we should be grateful for: It is a long-held tradition to gather near our loved ones during the long winter days and express our appreciation for all the material and spiritual gifts we possess.

We hear this message in shopping malls or practically any public place where we purchase goods or services; we hear it at our workplace or place of worship; and, of course, we’re particularly made aware of this “season of thankfulness” in the media, relentlessly coming at us from all sides. After all, as they say, “‘Tis the Season to be Jolly!” Right?

An important life coaching lesson is that while it’s always a good feeling to appreciate and truly be grateful for the things we have in life, whether intangible or material, it’s often an even more rewarding, uplifting feeling to feel so grateful for our lot in life that we find ourselves happily just “being grateful” – sometimes for what may seem like the smallest, most insignificant things in life – the things that we all too often don’t stop to recognize, and thereby take for granted.

How often have you caught yourself commenting to someone, for example, phrases like these: (See if anything rings a bell here.)

  • “I couldn’t believe it! The whole way, we worried about not getting a good parking spot because we were running late and would miss the beginning of the show, and there, right in front of the building, was a spot, like it had been reserved just for us.”
  • “My son came home for the weekend unannounced, and he brought his college roommate along. If it weren’t for those leftovers from the office party today, I don’t know what I would have fed them.”
  • “My wife had a flat tire Friday afternoon, but we were so thankful it didn’t blow out on the freeway – she was coming down the driveway, and I happened to notice.”
  • “We had to take the cat to the vet, and our daughter was just frantic. It didn’t look good at all; we were frankly anticipating the worst. Thankfully, with just a few shots, they were able to release him the same day.”

There’s just no doubt about it; the benefits of gratitude are many — we even know from modern science that the feeling of gratefulness, or appreciation, promotes a sense of overall well-being similar to relief, and induces the release of endorphins throughout our bodies.

And, since antiquity, very spiritual people, regardless of religious orientation, have consistently reported a very real sense of happiness, often bordering on elation and wonder, during or after a particularly meditative or prayerful, contemplative time in which they believe to have connected with either a Higher Power – or a higher sense of “self.”

Holiday times are meant to be special, of course, and they do bring forth much more goodness than irritation — but aren’t we overlooking something here? When – and how — did we all seem to forget how to be grateful for our lives every day?

First, imagine being completely composed and tranquil during the next holiday season. If it’s a bit difficult to get that mental picture, here’s why: As a society, we have actually compressed our “times to be grateful” into a very structured convention. The holidays have become “the time to be thankful,” when we must all become humble and appreciative, heads bowed appropriately.

Next, just imagine for a moment that we have been conditioned since birth to express and show genuine appreciation, gratefulness, and thanks every time it’s called for — no matter what month the calendar reveals! If our minds had been programmed since infancy to greet each new day by remembering all the for which we are grateful, most of us would most likely have fewer turbulent emotions during the winter holidays.

One of Jimmy Stewart’s most memorable roles was as Elwood P. Dowd in the widely celebrated film, “Harvey.” At the beginning of the film, when “Elwood” is approached by the mailman, who proclaims it a good day, Elwood replies, almost incredulously, “Why, every day is a good day.”

This beloved fictional character doesn’t have to remain on cold celluloid. If we started thinking of every day like our own personal Thanksgiving or religious holiday, we’d all likely feel a much greater sense of reward and inner tranquility – sending those endorphins coursing through our bloodstream will help us stay composed, appreciative, and kind to others. And most of all, it makes us feel better — no matter what time of year.

Speak Your Mind

*