My father was a Holocaust survivor, and every day, he expressed gratitude for his life.
So, I learned from an early age to be grateful. This is probably one of the reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Its focus is not materialistic, but rather, it’s about enjoying good food, being with loved ones, and expressing appreciation.
Giving thanks or showing gratitude is about loving and acknowledging ourselves and others. Therefore, November and December seem to be the best month to celebrate gratitude.
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives,” President John F. Kennedy once said.
The truth is, many of us do not express gratitude often enough, nor do we appreciate the lives we’re living. Studies have shown that those who are more grateful—and express it—are more likely to be happy and are less prone to depression.
This is one of the many reasons why we should infuse each and every day with gratitude; it should truly be a built-in component of our everyday lives. Expressing it is like using a tuning fork and letting its vibrations send joy throughout the universe.
Offering thanks fosters appreciation of—and a refreshing perspective on—our lives, while positively affecting our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. It can also offer opportunities for spiritual growth.
Janice Kaplan said, in her book The Gratitude Diaries, that in addition to the feeling of gratitude being fun, looking for the positive in her experiences has changed her attitude toward life. She said that it’s not about how they have affected her happiness, but it’s how she chose to frame them, which has greatly affected her.
Writer Oliver Sacks, who suffered from pancreatic cancer, said that expressing gratitude was responsible for keeping him alive longer than doctors said he would live. Even though he knew his life was coming to an end (he passed away in 2015), he was grateful for the opportunity to look back and see his last days in the context of his entire life. This helped him maintain a deep sense of connection. He said that while he was afraid of dying, his predominant emotion at the end of his life was gratitude.
Gratitude journaling is a productive way to document all that we’re thankful for. This type of writing is a way to focus on the positive and offers an excellent opportunity to be mindful of (and grateful for) those things we might otherwise take for granted. The art of gratitude journaling also gives us a chance to slow down and pay attention to all the good in our lives. Writing helps organize our thoughts and can facilitate healing and transformation. And, when we’re having difficult times, going back and reading what we’ve written in the past can serve as a useful tool for healing.
As a two-time cancer survivor, I keep a gratitude journal to remind me of all the positive aspects of my life—I believe that we all have them, but often forget them. I will never forget what the oncologist who diagnosed my second bout with cancer said: “This is the time to look for the joy in your life and have it encircle everything you do.” This really helped me come to grips with my situation.
Similar to other types of journaling, there are no rules, but here are a few ideas to jump-start the process:
>> Day 1: Make a list of 3 to 10 people to express gratitude to. They can be alive or deceased. Beside each name, write a few sentences explaining why.
>> Day 2: Make a list of 3 to 10 events or experiences that elicit feelings of gratitude. Write a few sentences on their significance.
>> Day 3: Make a list of 3 to 10 items that represent joy, poignant moments, or treasured memories, and explain their significance.
>> Day 4: Make a list of 3 to 10 books that have been particularly meaningful, and explain why.
>> Day 5: Make a list of 3 to 10 trips or adventures that have been impactful. Explain why.
>> Day 6: Make a list of 3 to 10 personality characteristics that inspire gratitude.
>> Day 7: Make a list of 3 to 10 personal skills that evoke gratitude.
Author: Diana Raab
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Callie Rushton