In my family we love Thanksgivings so much that we have multiple gatherings to accommodate extended family schedules. Big traditional meal on Thursday followed by at least one more (typically non-traditional, like Tex-Mex) on Friday or Saturday. One tradition is to go around the table with each person expressing gratitude for someone or some tangible or intangible thing in our lives. In most years it is easy to give thanks at Thanksgiving for the blessings in our life. But this year is different.
Still, even in this year marred with tragedies that will be marked and remembered in history, each of us can identify reasons to be thankful. So, we will observe this tradition this year. Whether in a small, socially-distanced back-yard gathering or virtually, we will count our blessings one by one. This act of sharing gratitude not only brings us closer as a family, but also creates a sense of peace and positivity within each of us. Knowing it produces such a favorable effect, why don’t we do this more than once a year?
My question for you today is: could we change the world if we all had a regular practice of gratitude? Research suggests we could!
Practice of Gratitude
Did you know that “people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed?”
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (also thankful, pleasing). In the process of expressing thankful appreciation for what one has received, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives that comes from others. According to Harvard Medical School, “gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” From positive psychology research we know showing gratitude “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Lawyers who are happy and healthy are better able to perform professionally and more likely to positively impact the world around them. Encouraging law students and lawyers to develop a practice of gratitude should be part of our effort to develop lawyers as leaders.
One suggestion from the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman, as recommended in his book Authentic Happiness, is to write daily letters of gratitude. A practice of gratitude could be spending a few minutes each day to write a “gratitude” email to someone expressing appreciation for them even if you have not seen them in a while. In the age of electronic communication, a hand-written note can be even more meaningful.
We wish you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving gathering with loved ones, whether in person or virtually.
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks, we give ourselves.”David Steindl-Rast