The Art of Being Grateful
No one can deny that 2020 has been rough, and I think that’s an understatement. We all know the sheer amount of collective loss and stress that we have endured over the past months, ranging from financial and physical stress to social. Every aspect of our lives has taken a significant toll. While it is true that news of an effective vaccine has brought much-needed hope as we optimistically yearn for a return to “normal,” experts have warned us that we still need to be prepared to carry on with the current circumstances throughout 2021. That’s right, the end of the year by no means represents the end of the pandemic, no matter how much we wish that the new year will bring a new beginning. Nevertheless, the year’s end calls for the opportunity to reflect on what has been and what can be. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for reflection and thanks in the company of dear friends and family.
I dove into the science of gratitude and the different ways in which people practice being grateful. Some make gratitude-lists, which can be as simple as listing 5 or 10 items we are thankful for; others choose the most thankful things according to letters of the alphabet. Others are more tech-oriented and post their lists on social media and then challenge others to do the same.
There are even smartphone apps that help users create thanksgiving lists. Research suggests gratitude lists are as helpful as other methods of paying attention or monitoring one’s feelings. Researchers argue that a weekly practice might be more effective than a daily one when it comes to frequency because too much gratitude can be numbing (Huber, 2018). As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
But even more interesting than the ways of expressing gratitude is the focus of that gratitude. The article “Stop Making Gratitude All About You,” published by the Harvard Business Review, suggests focusing your thoughts on the benefactor instead of yourself. According to the study, there are two types of gratitude expressions: 1) another praising, which acknowledges and validates the giver’s action, and 2) self-benefit, which describes how the receiver is better off after being helped.
In another study, researchers observed couples expressing gratitude to each other for something their partner did for them. The study concluded that other-praising thankfulness was strongly related to perceptions of responsiveness, positive emotion, and loving, but self-benefit gratitude was not. What does this mean? It means that - at times - human beings can be selfish and tend to talk about themselves when we should be talking about others. Therefore, when we get high-quality help and support, we tend to talk about how it made us feel. This sense could be because we assume that’s what the helper wants to hear; after all, they helped us make us happy. But that assumption is not always right. The helper might also be motivated to help due to their sense of self-worth.
People help because they want to be fair, to live up to their goals and values (Grant, 2016). In other words, when practicing gratitude, we should also focus on the other, on their roles, their efforts, and the impact they have in our lives. We should be thankful for them, not just for how they make us feel.
Practicing a profound ritual of gratitude every week or even every month might not come naturally for some people. But practicing it, now and then, through small but relevant actions, could be significant and meaningful, not just for us but for the people in our lives.
The way I see it, being mindful of others is an excellent sign of emotional intelligence. But why does it have to be this way? Because we are creatures of habit and find comfort in what is familiar, and new behaviors can lead many of us outside of our comfort zones. Old and typical actions never lead to new results, which is why it is essential to embrace discomfort and challenge ourselves to grow (Lindo, 2019).
I am thankful for my country, for my community, and the values that we uphold. I am grateful for my family and friends, and for the people that I get to work with, to build something with, and although, at times, we do not share the same views or opinions, we always manage to focus on the things that we do have in common.
I know that the current political and social climate feels very polarizing, but we can achieve remarkable things if we focus on our commonalities. Let’s not forget that differences enrich us, but it’s all about building the right conditions in which those differences are viewed as assets rather than threats. I am thankful for America because I believe America is, after all, a country of opportunities and infinite possibilities.
I wish you all a fantastic Thanksgiving, As we can see, there are many ways to express our gratitude, and whichever you end up choosing, I hope it enriches your life and the lives of those around you. Maybe we should try to bring that gratitude with us beyond the holiday. And now, dear reader, how do you express gratitude, and what is your best advice for showing others how grateful we are for them? I would love to read your stories and suggestions.
Thank you. For more information, visit: Grant, H. (2016). Stop Making Gratitude All About You. Available on: https://hbr.org/2016/06/stop-making-gratitude-all-about-you Huber, S. (2018). Does Counting Your Blessings Work? Available on: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/01/does-counting-your-blessings-work/549638/ Lindo, J. (2019). Three Things to Know Before Investing in Emotional Intelligence Development. Available on: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/04/26/three-things-to-know-before-investing-in-emotional-intelligence-development/?sh=5942906a1c1b