Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician, author, and medical advisor to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center, defines gratitude as "An intentional appreciation of what and who you have; an acceptance and explicit acknowledgment of what life brings you."
We are at that time of year again in the United States where we pause and take stock of the things for which we are grateful (while also eating too much and maybe watching a lot of parades and football games). Our forebearers and the Wampanaog Indians did something similar for three days in the Plymouth colony -- minus the spectacles and games of pigskin -- in 1621 to celebrate the first successful colonist corn harvest, and they held a second Thanksgiving in 1623 to express gratitude at the end of a long drought, according to History.com.
Many of us go into the holiday every year grateful to have a couple of days off from work. We may be expected by family to say one thing for which we are thankful next Thursday, and maybe that is all of the thanksgiving we truly express.
But thankfulness or gratitude could have a bigger, more ongoing place in our lives, even if it is done in small, frequent doses. Here are some quick ideas to add express more gratitude in your life:
• Thank the cashier at the grocery store or drugstore for ringing up your order.
• Thank your dry cleaner for washing and pressing your shirts and for checking to make sure the buttons are secure.
• Greet the greeters at Walmart and REI, and ask about their days.
• Write a quick note to thank the hotel maid staff for making your bed and cleaning your room.
• Say thank you to the person who holds the door or the elevator for you.
• Don't just tip the valet for getting your car but actually expression appreciation that she or he took good care of your car while it was in her/his custody.
• Thank your children's teachers not just for the winter holiday, but on an ongoing basis with an apple, a note, or a gift card for a hot beverage.
These are things that take mere seconds to do, express thanks to others, and may help the receiver to have a better day, and yet often in our haste or preoccupation with our own lives we choose to forgo saying or showing appreciation for the service, care, and gifts we get daily.
For a more time-intensive expression of gratitude try this: When was the last time you thought about someone who made an impact on your life? This person could have been your parent or grandparent, a teacher, a coach, a business mentor, or anyone. Positive Psychology founder Martin Seligman, Ph.D. , challenges people in his book Flourish to write a 300-page letter to someone who has changed their lives for the better, and then to deliver the letter by reading it to the person in person.
In addition to all of those well-being benefits, Writer William Arthur Ward said, "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."