Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday
I love it because Thanksgiving has everything that’s great and nothing that’s not!
The minimalist, decluttering, frugal side of me loves that there’s no expectation of gifts. And although some celebrations may be getting more and more commercial in the US, it’s not really a materialist or commercial holiday.
I love that it is a day dedicated to gratitude, hosting, spending time with people you love, feeling abundant and sharing with others.
I’ve known that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I’ve shared it for years!
And I have been a gratitude fan for years too. Most recently, in my facebook group for fun friendly females, I’ve been posting a Thankful 30th reminder on the 30th day of each month to remind us all to make a list of 30 things we’re thankful for then share 1 or 2 of them to the group.
By the way – you’re invited to join me on the 30th of this month. Just take some time to make a list of 30 things you’re thankful for – then come back to the comments below or find me on Facebook or Instagram and share 1 or 2 items from your list with me.
Maybe I Don’t Know About Gratitude
Interestingly enough, until I started thinking about what I wanted to include in this post, I realized, maybe I don’t know much about gratitude. I haven’t really researched it specifically (the way I have researched other topics I believe in and am interested in).
For example- who’s the gratitude expert? What does everyone know about gratitude? What are the famous gratitude studies that prove the value of gratitude?
Wow! I have no idea! My own gratitude practice is just pieced together, and really, it’s relatively recent in my life.
I thought about if I were to convince you to give gratitude a try or to dive deeper into gratitude, what’s my reason? What’s my compelling argument to convince you that you should embrace gratitude?
My immediate reason for gratitude, for myself, is because it feels good. So that right there is a compelling argument. If you want to feel better, get grateful.
What You’re Noticing
If you’re feeling bad about something in your life or the way something happened, or how something currently is, my guess is you might be noticing everything that’s wrong with it. You might be seeing all the ways this isn’t going as you expected. You might be focusing on all the negative aspects.
Shift your Perspective
And if you shift your perspective just a little and start wondering “what am I grateful for in this situation?” – even just realizing “well, I’m grateful that it’s not worse” that thought can help you start to feel better immediately, and help you feel more open and start to see more possibilities.
As I was thinking about this noticing and shift in perspective, my mind actually went a little dark – which I found super interesting! But I stayed with it out of curiosity and here’s what I realized.
There may be certain things I’m disappointed about or mentally complaining about right now in my own life. For example, like I mentioned Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and part of the reason is in recent years, I have a tradition of hosting a friends event on Thanksgiving night giving everyone a great excuse to leave other Thanksgiving commitments (if they need an excuse) plus providing our friend group a way to celebrate together without the pressure and expectation of a full-on thanksgiving event. So of course, this year I’m sad we weren’t able to do it. But, I realized, if things were much worse, I might consider this 2020 thanksgiving with no friends and family one of the best ever! I might look back at this year fondly with sweet memories. I mean, I will anyhow!
Comparing Then to Now
I notice how so many of us miss the pre-covid days and wish we could just get back to normal – but if you would have asked the 1-year ago version of us how great the present was – 1 year ago? We would have had complaints and whines and wishes about how things weren’t great – and now we look back at the time we could walk into a store without a mask and meet friends at a restaurant and get together with friends and family and host big parties and events – now we look back at those days longingly.
So the dark part of this realization for me was imagining that things could be so much worse than they are right now. If someone I love got hurt, or sick. If something caused our lifestyle to change drastically. If our air quality got so bad that we couldn’t spend any time outdoors – again, I’m trying not to get too dark- but when I think about what would be really bad, it makes my current, present covid, quarantine life seem pretty good, and easy, and enjoyable!
Staying in Abundance
Feeling grateful and practicing gratitude keeps me in an abundant mindset. I know that abundance and scarcity are like magnets for me – when I’m feeling abundant, I get more abundance. When I’m feeling scarce, I find more examples of scarcity. Whichever side of the scale I’m on, the force of the magnet pulls me more strongly in the direction I’m already going.
Intentionally Practice Gratitude
Since gratitude makes me feel abundant and I want to feel abundant about whatever I can, I want to purposefully and intentionally practice gratitude as much as possible.
Opposite of Gratitude
Thinking about what I know about gratitude for this post also got me thinking about what’s the opposite of gratitude.
The first concepts that popped to mind were feeling entitled or deserving. This slowed me down a little, because I actually do try to feel entitled and deserving, on purpose. So in practice, I don’t think those concepts are opposite to gratitude or that they can’t co exist with gratitude- at least not the way I think about them.
I like believing that I’m entitled to what I create for myself and I like believing that I deserve good things and I deserve good experiences to happen for me. Why not!?
What’s the benefit of not believing I’m entitled to creating a great life for myself and what’s the benefit of not believing I deserve good things to happen?
Entitled and Deserving
I think these words can be misinterpreted and can be cast in a negative light- so I just want to specify: I don’t think I am personally and solely entitled and deserving.
I think YOU are also entitled to whatever you create for yourself, whatever you pour yourself into, and whatever you are passionate about. I also think you deserve good things. I think everyone does!
So when I’m advocating for entitlement and deserving, I’m applying it not just to me – but to you and everyone in the world! We can all feel entitled and deserving- rather than disempowered and undeserving.
Then, we can all be grateful for what we’re entitled to and what we deserve!
Since I’m not using entitlement and deserving as opposites of gratitude, I had to go back into my brain to wonder.. What is the opposite of gratitude – and the answer I came up with is: expecting.
Yes! That’s it! I noticed I can get myself into trouble when I expect things to happen or I expect things to go a certain way – and then, when they don’t, I feel disappointed. So for me, I think expectation is the opposite of gratitude.
Thieves of Thankfulness
As I was researching to learn more about gratitude, I found some other possible opposites too. In an article called “Why is Gratitude So Hard for Some People,” I read that “envy, materialism, narcissism, and cynicism can be thought of as “thieves of thankfulness.”
First of all- don’t you love the expression “thieves of thankfulness?” And as soon as I read the words envy, materialism, narcissism and cynicism, I immediately thought “oh, yes! Those are the opposites of gratitude.” And just like the scarcity magnet I mentioned earlier, I think if someone is envious or cynical or materialistic, it’s less and less likely for them to be grateful.
Why am I Selling You Gratitude?
Gratitude is such an interesting concept to promote because it’s unlimited and it’s free and it’s available instantly to anyone. And because it’s infinite, you can’t reduce mine and I can’t reduce yours – we can both keep increasing our gratitude exponentially. So, why “sell it?” Do I get anything by promoting it to you? (I do! I think more gratitude makes the world a better place.)
Plus, it’s another one of those things about my life that I think is just too good not to share – so I’m compelled to share it with you and convince you and talk you into it – even if there’s no direct benefit or compensation back to me.
Let’s switch gears and talk about gratitude research. Why aren’t we naturally more grateful? My guess is, we probably haven’t developed the habit. Or, maybe it hasn’t ever occurred to us before and we don’t know that having a gratitude practice is an option and we don’t realize the benefit.
Here’s a little of what I learned about gratitude. The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness.
There are many synonyms of gratitude, including:
Realizing those synonyms is kind of interesting too – because it’s possible to have a gratitude-adjacent response, without actually being grateful.
So, if someone does something for me that they think is nice, but that I don’t actually appreciate, I can at least acknowledge, recognize their effort and respond – even if I don’t feel authentically grateful.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph. D., is one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at UC-Davis. One of his studies points out that gratitude is a cognitive-affective state that is typically associated with the perception that one has received a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person” (Emmons & Stern, 2013).
I don’t know if I personally agree with this. I am grateful for so many things that I don’t attribute to the intentions of another person – like hearing the birds singing in the morning, or I’m frequently grateful to my past self (well, I guess that could be counted as another person, right?).
A study by Sara Algoe shows that people who are more prone to gratitude have more gray matter in their right inferior temporal cortex, an area previously linked to interpreting other people’s intentions. Don Davis, a psychologist at Georgia State University, says “[gratitude] is a powerful way to teach people to regulate their emotional state.”
I agree with this 100% – this is what I mean about pulling yourself out of scarcity mode and staying more consistently in abundance with a frequent gratitude practice
Jeffrey Froh, an associate professor at Hofstra University found gratitude interventions to be promising but said that encouraging everyone to adopt them was “premature.” So, is my encouragement for you to adopt gratitude in your life premature? Maybe.
All this thinking and researching made me wonder: does forced gratitude work? I don’t think so.
Based on the articles I read, it seems like these gratitude practices may not work for everyone, especially the claim that encouraging people to adopt them could be premature.
Some people are more likely to enjoy the benefits of practicing gratitude because of their genetic make up and other factors. But, what I’m choosing to believe about having an intentional gratitude practice is that it can’t hurt!
Even if you don’t have the gratitude gene or gray matter in your brain that makes you feel better when you make a list of things you’re grateful for or when you purposefully tell someone thank you when you wouldn’t otherwise, even if it doesn’t make you feel better – I don’t believe it will make you feel worse. So, why not? What’s the harm?
I’m still advocating for it! Especially because maybe that practice helps it become a habit for you, and maybe that habit causes your brain to rearrange itself into a brain that does get a reward from gratitude!
Not Really Grateful
Something else all this research and contemplation made me wonder about is should I feel grateful for something I’m not really grateful for?
No! I don’t think so. To me, trying to feel an emotion when you’re not feeling that emotion is the definition of resistance! That’s a lot of “should.”
So, if some part of you (or someone else) is saying: “you should be grateful for this” but you’re not. Instead of resisting the lack of gratitude, it’s an opportunity to explore why.
This exploration may also not feel natural to you. It may feel uncomfortable or awkward to really check in to find out why you don’t feel grateful that something has happened, or someone has given you something or done something for you – but think about this- by exploring and uncovering your thoughts that lead to an emotion other than gratitude, you can learn so much about your own thought patterns and beliefs. You might be surprised at what you learn. You can use that new information to make decisions about what you want to intentionally think moving forward, or, you may realize you’ve been believing something or assuming something and this introspection shows you that you don’t want to keep believing it. You can drop those thoughts.
My Gratitude Influencers
In case you are inspired to explore your own thankful thoughts and come up with a gratitude practice of your own. I’ll just take you on a quick tour of my gratitude influencers.
I first heard about the idea of an intentional daily gratitude practice as part of positive psychology from Shawn Achor, the author of the Happiness Advantage. He suggested an intentional practice of writing 3 new things each day you are grateful for as part of a 21-day happiness challenge.
I learned more about the connection of appreciation and abundance from Jess Lively. She introduced me to the concept of a rampage of appreciation – which is similar to the writing practice I just mentioned, but much longer. It can be pages and pages of things you’re grateful for.
I learned about gratitude in advance from my mentor, Brooke. She suggests to visualize and feel grateful for things you don’t even have yet. It’s kind of a trick to your brain to create what you want for yourself because you’re already pre-grateful for it. She has an entire podcast episode about this topic.
Questions about Gratitude
That’s everything I wanted to share with you. But of course, I have questions for you too.
Do you have any resistance to feeling grateful? Or any resistance to anything I mentioned in this post?
What is a gratitude practice you follow?
What are you grateful for?
I want to know all the answers! I’ll be so grateful if you share with me in the comments below.
Algoe SB, Way BM. Evidence for a role of the oxytocin system, indexed by genetic variation in CD38, in the social bonding effects of expressed gratitude. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Dec;9(12):1855-61. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst182. Epub 2014 Jan 5. PMID: 24396004; PMCID: PMC4249462.
Emmons, R.A., Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology 69(8), 846-855. doi:10.1002/jclp.22020
Solom, R., Watkins, P., McCurrach, D., & Scheibe, D. (2017) Thieves of thankfulness: Traits that inhibit gratitude, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12:2, 120-129, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1163408
Wood AM, Froh JJ, Geraghty AW. Gratitude and well-being: a review and theoretical integration. Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Nov;30(7):890-905. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005. Epub 2010 Mar 20. PMID: 20451313.
Zahn R, Garrido G, Moll J, Grafman J. Individual differences in posterior cortical volume correlate with proneness to pride and gratitude. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Nov;9(11):1676-83. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst158. Epub 2013 Oct 7. PMID: 24106333; PMCID: PMC4221203.