Wanna be happy? Be grateful.

With today being the first day of Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (an amazing excuse to eat a ridiculous amount of food and enjoy time off with family and friends) it only makes sense to speak about gratitude and giving thanks.

 

grat-i-tude [ˈgrætɪˌtjuːd]
n: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation

Although this holiday presents a perfect opportunity to go around the Thanksgiving table and share what everyone is grateful for, it may not be enough to do but once a year!

Research shows that having a regular gratitude practice can increase happiness by up to 25%. Some psychologists say it causes higher levels of positive emotions, yields healthier immune systems, allows for greater compassion and generosity, lowers blood pressure, increases self-worth and life’s meaning, improves interpersonal relationships, and causes more overall joy and optimism… the list goes on and is by no means exhaustive.

Hefty claims, perhaps, but I am sure there is a reason why so many folks and enlightened spiritual leaders follow some sort of a daily gratitude practice.

I was given an amazing book by a special cousin entitled One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. She shares her journey – beautifully and poetically narrated – of discovery as to what it takes to live a full life. She is on a mission to find joy and grace and beauty in every moment, regardless of what life throws at her… “to learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty.”

It was a kind of dare – a love dare she called it – to write a list of one thousand blessings, one thousand things to be grateful for. She called it one thousand gifts. It wasn’t a list of gifts she wanted, but rather a list of gifts she already had. Morning shadows across the old floors. Jam piled high on the toast. Mail in the mailbox.

Practicing gratitude is easy when life is going swimmingly. But to be grateful in times of sadness or trouble – when down – is not always as easy. And so perhaps that is the challenge. Perhaps that is the practice. Perhaps that is the dare.

Life is full of ups and downs. We couldn’t experience joy if we also didn’t experience sadness. But within the naturally occurring ebb and flow, in good times and in bad times, being thankful is possible.

Voskamp writes: “Gratitude in the midst of death and divorce and debt – that’s the language I’ve got to learn to speak – because that’s the kind of life I am living, the kind I have to solve… To learn how to be grateful and happy, whether hands full or hands empty. That is a secret worth spending a life on learning. Even if it takes a Rosetta Stone of decades.”

Every morning, before I even get out of bed, I say out loud five things I am grateful for (as I do my 10 rotations of my 11 limbs… we all have our rituals and idiosyncrasies, right?!?) And it never fails to make me smile.

 This morning I was grateful for my family, my cozy sheets, the impromptu dance party after the baseball game at the Lodge on Queen last night, my accidental sleep-in, my yoga soundtrack.

What are YOU grateful for?

Whether hands full or hands empty, there will always be something to be grateful for. (Click to tweet it out!)

Happy gobble gobble weekend!

Carol - high res