Over fifteen years ago, when I received the news that I had Hodgkin’s disease, I could have never guessed where I’d be today.
When I lost my hair, watched my body blow up like a balloon, and no longer recognized the person in the mirror, I would have never imagined that in just over a decade I would have built a company based on my experiences (and my father’s, which came later), and that I would be using my suffering to help others better navigate the cancer journey.
But it’s happened, and I’m so grateful.
The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to take a moment and count our blessings. In 2010, I wrote about how writing a daily journal of gratefulness had changed my life. To this day, I take the time to write down exactly what I’m thankful for, from the fact that I’m alive and well to the fact that I get to live my purpose and do things with my life that fill me with meaning.
In 2012, I wrote about having an “attitude of gratitude,” and how when things are most difficult in our lives is when counting our blessings can be most helpful. The words I wrote then still fill my heart:
It wasn’t until I was able to find that sense of gratitude that I was able to experience the joy in my father’s last days. I grew thankful for each moment I had with him-that I could spend all our remaining days focusing on him and “us”-and counted my blessings that I was one of the few people who actually get to say a proper goodbye to my father. I asked him about things I had never asked him before, and I will forever cherish the memory of those conversations. How lucky I was to have them!
So where am I this year? What do I have to say about gratitude?
Well, turns out there’s a lot more information about how much counting our blessings can do for our mood, health, and well being in life.
How are you feeling as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches? Is it easy to count your blessings, or are you feeling a bit battered about by life? I hope by reading the following, your own internal sense of gratitude will glow, for it’s a proven fact-gratitude just makes you feel good.
Studies Show Gratitude Works
Studies over the past several years have shown that gratitude is good for us. This year, we have yet another one showing us the wisdom of a grateful mindset.
Researchers from Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences analyzed about 250 members of the department of marketing in a mid-sized private university in the southwestern U.S. They had an average age of 21 years. Each took a 15-minute survey that asked questions about things like materialism, gratitude, need satisfaction, and life satisfaction. They then analyzed the answers based on a 15-item scale of materialism.
The results showed the following:
- People who are more materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied, in part because they find it hard to be grateful for what they have.
- Those who are grateful are more likely to find more meaning in life.
“Gratitude is a positive mood,” said study lead author Jo-Ann Tsang.
Another study in April 2014 found similar results. Researchers gave a questionnaire to undergraduates, and found that men with high gratitude scores were more likely to enjoy greater social support, and women with high scores were more likely to report greater life satisfaction. All who were more grateful experienced greater levels of well being.
Gratitude Makes You Healthier
These studies show just some of what gratitude can do. According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, gratitude can actually make us healthier. They report that “people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- Stronger immune systems and blood pressure;
- Higher levels of positive emotions;
- More joy, optimism, and happiness;
- Acting with more generosity and compassion;
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.”
I think we need these reminders to be grateful. We are faced with plenty of negative messages these days, from the media telling us everything that’s wrong with everything to the cultural messages making us feel as if we’re never good enough.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to step back and take a luck at how truly fortunate we are.
I wish all Cinco Vidas readers a wonderful, warm, and loving Thanksgiving, but most of all, I wish for all of you that the practice of gratitude will stay with you long after the turkey and sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie are gone.
There really is no easier way to improve your life than to remember to be grateful for how wonderful it already is.
Do you find it easy to count your blessings this time of year? Please share your thoughts.
J-Ann Tsang, et al., “Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction,” Personality and Individual Differences, July 2014; 64(July 2014): 62-66, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914001019.
“Gratitude, Not ‘Gimme,’ Makes for More Satisfaction, Baylor University Study Finds,” Baylor University, March 31, 2014, http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=141629.
Feng Kong, et al., “The Relationships Among Gratitude, Self-esteem, Social Support and Life Satisfaction Among Undergraduate Students,” Journal of Happiness Studies, April 22, 2014; http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10902-014-9519-2.
University of California, Berkeley, “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude,” The Greater Good Science Center, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude.
Picture courtesy rakratchada torsap via freedigitalphotos.net.