Stretch Beyond the Holiday – Practice Gratitude

Whether an individual is in the moment absorbing the awe-inspiring scenic beauty along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, or learning that an ill family member is comfortably celebrating another birthday or yet, while experiencing the excitement of a youthful grandson’s soccer game, these discernible and common events can easily nourish the engaged individual with the identifiable sense of gratitude. 

The word gratitude originates from the Latin word gratia, meaning grace, graciousness or gratefulness. Additionally, the dictionary defines gratitude (n) noun, as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Showing gratitude or being grateful whispers the sentiments of appreciation, kindness and good fortune. 

Our national Thanksgiving holiday, established by an act of Congress and signed into law by president Franklin Roosevelt on Dec. 26, 1941, arrives annually on the fourth Thursday in November. This American holiday commemorates the successful harvest and feast held by the Wampanoag, the original natives of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and the Pilgrims in the autumn of 1621. 

Although family, food, football and – traditionally – a festive parade now characterize Thanksgiving, another distinction of the fall celebration is giving thanks and the warm acknowledgment of being grateful and expressing gratitude. 

Interestingly, positive psychology research, the scientific focus of what makes life most worth living with regard to individual and societal well-being, notes several unique benefits associated with gratefulness.  

First, gratitude is associated with greater happiness. Studies show that grateful people extend more sensitivity and empathy toward others, appreciate the accomplishments of others, and ultimately, build stronger interpersonal relationships. Also, grateful individuals exhibit greater self-esteem and are better prepared to deal with adversity. Added rewards include lower levels of stress and depression, plus a favorable inclination to sleep better and longer. 

Fortunately, if one is inclined, there are ways to foster a grateful temperament. One course of action is to routinely offer thanks throughout the day. Look, notice and acknowledge the good. Recognizing the effects of nature, relishing the positive influence of family and registering the benefit of physical activity, as opposed to centering on material objects, is the suggested practice.

When practicing one’s gratitude, tangible personal exercises are straightforward and uncomplicated. Some approaches may include writing one’s thoughts of gratitude in a journal, while others may discover that expressing an oral or written thank-you to others is rewarding. 

Although Thursday, Nov. 25, is a day to offer gratitude, consider being thankful throughout the year. The benefits to self and others are remarkably noteworthy.

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