Conversations at the Crossroads.

Habitual Gratitude

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”  ~W.T. Purkiser

With Thanksgiving upon us, gratitude feels like an appropriate topic for this week’s newsletter. It’s a day during which many of us pause to appreciate the positive aspects of our lives, if only for a brief moment ahead of turkey and pie.

Gratitude is expressed on other holidays, too, of course. New Year’s comes to mind as another time of year around which many choose to reflect and be grateful.

But what happens when we “give thanks” more frequently than the holidays that implicitly demand it? How does habitual gratitude—whether or not outwardly expressed—make a difference in our thoughts, feelings and actions?

What happens is an energy shift. And the difference can be significant.

In a 2003 study, two doctors at the University of California at Davis conducted research on gratitude and thankfulness. It was concluded that participants in the study who documented their gratitude on a weekly basis “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events” (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). These research findings have been quoted endlessly in the decade that has followed. Just Google “effect of gratitude on health” and see for yourself.

Although I knew nothing of this research at the time, I experienced the positive effects of gratitude first-hand when facing some challenges earlier this year. My recent move to California had me feeling disconnected from family, friends, routines and familiar geography. My energy was low and for a while it felt like a struggle to do anything.

In the thick of that struggle, my coach suggested I start a daily gratitude journal, taking note of five things for which I’m thankful, every morning as soon as I awoke. It wasn’t easy at first. Yet, eventually it felt as if a part of my brain was on constant lookout for tomorrow’s gratitude. And, more importantly, I found myself feeling better too, with restored energy.

Gratitude works! Have you tried it yet? I encourage you to give it some practice, for any time period that feels right. Perhaps 5 to 7 days beyond Thanksgiving? I would love to hear what transpires and will post your comments anonymously on The Crossroads Coach Facebook page if you’d like to share your experience.

With warm holiday wishes for you and your family,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published November 19, 2012