Having a Heart of Gratitude

on Thursday, March 11, 2010

Even with the harsh economic news - jobless rates up and the stock market down - we can still find a lot to be grateful about, especially during the holidays. Families and friends traditionally draw together for support in times of crisis and this year is no different. The gift of appreciation - a heartfelt thank you - can be a daily present this holiday season for those you love. And the cost won't cut into your tight budget at all.

Why, then, is it so difficult to say thanks? We are often focused on ourselves - Galileo may have proved that the earth revolved around the sun but most of us secretly believe that the world itself revolves around us. It is sometimes hard to pull out of that orbit and become more aware of the contributions of others. And we all tend to take good things for granted. Humans instinctively pay more attention to threats to their safety than they do to situations of security and pleasure. We are less likely to notice supportive behaviors, so positive acts are often ignored.

Other times we think that, by recognizing family members for their generosity, they are less likely to notice what they could appreciate about us. Actually, expressing gratitude leads to positive effects for both the sender and the receiver. But any change in behavior is difficult - and establishing life-long habits takes conscious repetitions. It may be hard to make the commitment to building this new skill, but it is well worth the effort.

Expressing gratitude not only makes others feel better, it also benefits you and your mood. When you focus on what you are grateful for you gain a wide range of benefits. These include sounder sleep, enhanced self-esteem, increased levels of contentment and improved connections with the world around you. Not a bad outcome - especially for a Sandwiched Boomer caught in the midst of parents growing older and children growing up. According to Willie Nelson, "When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."