Dr. Traci Stein on the Power of Gratitude

 

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s natural for me to reflect on 1.) the dishes I’m responsible for making (this year it’s salad and a pumpkin pie), and, of course, 2.) what I’m thankful for.

Now, the science shows us that experiencing gratitude is linked to greater well-being and life satisfaction, both in the present and the longer-term. Plus, it just feels better to appreciate what we can.

If we allow ourselves, we’ll notice that even during the most challenging times, there is evidence of goodness in the world, from the epic to the ordinary. As an example, this week, despite the trauma of narrowly escaping the California wildfires, a friend right away began volunteering to help others in her community. I’m grateful for her resilience and compassion.

I’m also grateful for a million little, everyday blessings: a cashier’s friendliness, making a long line more bearable; an ill loved one’s improved comfort; the simple pleasure of having a quiet moment to sip a mug of warm, fragrant tea.

Whether the object is great or small, gratitude in general is worthwhile. If you aren’t so sure, try one of these gratitude cultivation exercises, and notice how you feel afterwards.

  • List 5 things for which you’re grateful. These can be from your past or your present. Don’t overthink it. Just notice how doing this exercise makes you feel.
  • Write a letter to someone who helped you or was kind to you in some way. Tell them why their gesture made a difference in your life. It doesn’t matter if the person is still living or not. Allow yourself to re-experience the feelings you had at the time, and express them now.
  • Think of a time when you persevered despite difficulty, or when you worked toward a goal that was important to you. Express gratitude to yourself, regardless of the outcome of your efforts. Imagine your gratitude as a beautiful light radiating from your heart center and extending to you at every point in your life – for all you have done, all you are, and for all that you will ever do. Observe how different this feels from being self-critical.

Notice how cultivating gratitude changes things for the better.

Wishing you and yours a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving and wonderful rest of the year.