Thanks for…well, everything

Even on a bad day, I try to remain grateful. And the thing that I am most grateful for is opportunity. It is opportunity that’s given me the education to get the job that puts me in the traffic that frustrates me. It is opportunity that led to success that bought the house where things break down. It is opportunity that widens my experience so that I go to the concert that disappoints me. So I accept the bad with the good, just grateful that I have choices. thanks

Acknowledging all the good that I have immediately puts life in a different, more favorable perspective. Maybe that’s why having a day devoted to giving thanks is so appealing to everyone. For one day, we put aside our worries, and sometimes our differences, to come together in appreciation, and see things in a positive light.

Here are a few of the other things I give thanks for this year:

Gardens; the gift of friendship; goodness;  grace; room to grow.

Insight; ideas; my ipad; my in-laws; interesting conversations.

Visitors; vacations; Vinyasa yoga; the view from my window.

Eating with friends; the feeling of empathy; my eighty-something mother; having enough.

Time for the things that bring me joy; traditions, old and new;  the taste of good food; the touch of a loved one.

Happiness; good health; a helping hand; my husband.

Acceptance of differences; fresh fall apples; ancestors; the aroma of pie.Thanksgiving_16

Nature; new friends; naps; physical and spiritual nourishment; my neighbors.

Kindness; kisses; my wonderful kids; knowledge; holding a koala.Brisbane_122

Stories; my sisters; the sight of a sunrise; solitude when I need it; stars in the night sky; songs, especially when my daughter sings them.

Tecumseh said, “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

Thank you for reading!

Don’t just be thankful – say it!

I’ll never forget the boss I once had who told me that he preferred to have employees who didn’t need to be praised. That’s right – he didn’t ever want to say “Good job!” The only positive feedback I ever received from him came after I had organized a huge (and successful) event for major clients. He said quietly, “That went well.”

Needless to say, that job was not a highlight of my life. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I needed a pep talk every day, or wanted to be told how great I was all the time. It’s just that it helps to know that people appreciate you and believe in you.

It turns out that my boss’ managerial style was not in the best interests of the business either. Some recent research reported on Inc.com shows a strong correlation between employee recognition and good business results. Companies that place importance on recognizing and rewarding their employees measure significantly better in productivity, employee engagement and customer service. The most successful companies tie employee recognition to the organization’s values, and also make sure that people are acknowledged by their peers as wells as their superiors.

I’m sure there are workers who don’t need or want to be praised, publicly or privately; but words of gratitude, a simple thank-you, can never be wrong. Expressions of gratitude can be powerful for their giver and their recipient, as well as the people around them. Just because you were doing your job doesn’t mean gratitude is out of order.

Writing a letter of gratitude to a previously unrecognized benefactor is an assignment I give my stress management students each semester. I can’t take credit for the idea; I got it from Martin Seligman. (Thank you, Dr. Seligman!) For most students, this is a deeply meaningful exercise; many write letters of appreciation to former teachers, parents, coaches and friends. Some write to public figures who have influenced them. For everyone, the letter is an opportunity to say “thank you”, either for the first time, or in a more formal way than they ever have before.

There is a great deal of research around the health benefits of practicing gratitude, much of it by Robert Emmons at U.C. Davis. But the rewards go beyond physical health. For some people, practicing gratitude means they are more likely to be making progress on achieving their personal goals; for others, daily gratitude practice leads to increases in energy, enthusiasm and attentiveness; and for children, thinking gratefully leads to more positive attitudes about school.

If you are curious about how the practice of gratitude might improve your life, you can be a part of a new project spearheaded by U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis. “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” is a 3-year, $5.6 million endeavor that includes as one component,  an interactive, on-line gratitude journal. At the website Thnx4.org, you can register and start keeping a 2-week journal, which will be shared with others on the site and become part of the larger research project.

In the meantime, perhaps we can all expand our practice of gratitude on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to expressing thanks for our food, our many blessings and our families, maybe we can each take a moment to remember and thank someone who helped set us on the right path, or was there for us at a crucial time, or just showed kindness when we needed it most.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer