“Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others”. The English preacher John Henry Jowett wrote, “Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road”. According to Aesop Fables, “gratitude is the sign of noble souls”. A dear professor of mine just acknowledged a thankyou note I sent him and told me “gratitude is the sign of maturity and wisdom”. Therese Borchard, editor and writer specialized in stress and anxiety, has written a great article about techniques for how to be thankful. What could be more timely than checking in it for Christmas season!! Here are some of the points she wrote about in her article about the parent of all virtues.
1. It is always a matter of the heart! Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in “The Little Prince” – “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye”. Every time we find ourselves caught in stress or disappointment because things are not the way we want them to be, we need to remind ourselves to look with our hearts instead of our eyes! “Go home and count your blessings” is one of the most famous quotes on gratitude which we need to recite every single day!
2. Watch your language. Talk to yourself in a nice positive way and do that with others. Borchard quotes Dan Baker, Ph.D., in his book “What Happy People Know”: “Just as changing your life can change your language, changing your language can change your life”. You won’t be able to be thankful if negativity is in the way, and once you practice positive talking to yourself and others, your perception of life will automatically alter. Then the seeds of gratitude will start to grow.
3. Remember good deeds done to you. Borchard quotes the French proverb “Gratitude is the heart’s memory” and she writes that one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember a good deed that was done to you. Take a step back every now and then and remember all those who stood by you in thick and thin; remember all your friends who helped you make that important decision, your parents who helped you stand on your feet during a tough time, or the angels you meet everyday who make you smile!
4. Keep a gratitude journal. Get a journal, write down your blessings, and revisit them especially when you are going into a destructive path. It can enormously help you become a happier person and even a healthier one! Results from a study conducted at the University of California at Davis by psychologist Robert Emmons, author of “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” show that gratitude can help you maintain a high energy level, can encourage you to stay determined while following your life goals, and can even make you sleep better while helping to conquer pain and fatigue!
5. Write a thank you letter. We all have met people in our lives that have helped us conquer a certain challenge, rise up above sadness, or get on the right positive energy track again! More often than not, we forget to say a proper thank you thinking that there will always be time to be thankful in the future. We may decide to show our gratitude through actions and not words. Guess what? One of the best gratitude exercises suggested by Dr. Emmons, is to compose a gratitude letter to someone who has made a positive influence in our lives and read it out loud face to face.
6. Pay a gratitude visit. Even more powerful than writing a letter and reading it aloud to someone, is visiting an important person in your life and thanking him/her, or even talking to others about this person! Seligman says: “We do not have a vehicle in our culture for telling the people who mean the most to us how thankful we are that they are on the planet”. Let us start building one!
7. Say a thank you prayer everyday. Borchard beautifully quotes Meister Eckhart who wrote, “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice”. Every day is a new opportunity and a new beginning. We need to be thankful even for our illnesses, diseases, misunderstandings, and problems, because we “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”! Romans 8:28.
8. Pay It Forward! A beautiful way to be thankful to God for all the blessings we have is by passing on the good deeds to others! Giving back doesn’t mean to return the favor to the same person that stood by us in a difficult time. The act of kindness towards us is a million times more meaningful and rewarding when we return this favor by showing an act of kindness to another! Who knows! Chances are it might very well come back right at you!
Source: “12 ways to be thankful” by Therese J. Borchard, thereseborchard.com , psychcentral.com