Updated 10/2021. Although Thanksgiving is several weeks away, and the Covid-19 pandemic seems as though it won’t ever go away, I still find myself overwhelmingly grateful. Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year because it helps me to remember the many things I have to be grateful for: my family, relatively good health, friends, job, religious freedoms (I should probably use more often) and too many other blessings to list. It’s the time of year I pause to reflect on the small moments throughout my life which have brought me profound joy and happiness. While these moments are significant to me, they are likely not marked by anyone else; those little moments of joy that transcend the unremarkable, common life I live into one I cherish as an extraordinary life experience, probably much like yours.
For example, I fondly remember an incident many years ago when a humorous comment I made caused every single one of my co-workers to laugh uncontrollably for several minutes; I am the only at work who still remembers, but that memory still brings a smile to my face.
More significantly, I remember the way I felt the first time I kissed my spouse, and the first time in my adult life I cried from pure joy; alone in a hospital nursery after years of fertility treatments, cradling my firstborn child.
My oldest memory of pure joy, though partially faded by time, is of me being mobbed by a bunch of puppies. I still clearly remember laying on the warm grass, the feel of soft paws with tiny claws on my skin, the way they playfully pounced all over me, the play bites (“They didn’t even hurt! “I bragged to my father after); the tickle of wet licks on my face that didn’t seem gross at all, how the puppies yelped with a delight to match my own and their unique puppy smell which, even today, transports me back in time to that wonderful and less complicated era of childhood.
Now, I am a grandfather with grown children and grandchildren of my own, and I marvel still more at all I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.
We have all heard being grateful, is good for the body and soul. Did you know there is scientific proof our lives are better when we activate the “attitude of gratitude”? In a 2015 article in Psychology Today, author Amy Morin outlines 7 scientifically proven ways we benefit from feeling grateful.
- Saying “Thank you” opens the door to more relationships and improves the ones we already have.
- Grateful people have fewer aches and pains and are healthier than others.
- Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, resentment and many other negative emotions which improves psychological health, increases happiness, and reduces depression.
- We enhance our empathy and reduce aggression when we apply gratitude in our behaviors and way of thinking.
- Contemplating what there is to be grateful for and writing it down in a gratitude journal helps improve sleep.
- Gratitude reduces social comparisons and increases self-esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental strength and can even help to lower rates of post traumatic-stress disorder.
And then, perhaps we are at our very best when we do kind things for others as it’s likely the purest form of gratitude we can demonstrate; simply being kind to others. There’s a video about a famous philanthropist, Chuck Feeney; after amassing a fortune, he dedicated his life to giving it all away to those in need. He pointed out that philanthropy (and kindness) feels good, but so much of philanthropy is done posthumously; he’d rather feel good before he dies. Hard to argue with his logic.
Most of us do not have a lot of money to give away, but everyone can afford to be kind. As one ponders all the great good so many philanthropists have accomplished, and how grateful one ought to feel for the good things in their own life, perhaps these feeling can inspire each of us to do more. Especially during this pandemic; so many have less, or are suffering physically, emotionally, or are struggling financially or with loneliness; anyone can do more by simply being a little better, a little kinder and embracing the spirit of philanthropy more fully, which is, giving while expecting nothing in return.
Expecting nothing in return is the right attitude, but we always get something back when we freely give because we feel better, even good, for having been more kind or giving, according to at least one successful philanthropist. And if this good feeling causes us to reflect a little more on all the blessings and moments of joy in life, like remembering puppies or being in a hospital nursery cradling a miracle in their arms or, well, I’ll let the reader fill one in here. We are indeed richly rewarded and perhaps, the object of our kindness and generosity, will in turn have a little more joy to be thankful for this week too.
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