In our previous Wisdom Note, our focus was creating, living, and leaving your legacy. This week we will learn how gratitude is thanks on steroids. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes, please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
As I reflect on completing five years of our Wisdom-Trek podcast at the end of May, I started thinking about gratitude, past the mere words “thank you.” Way past. I went to the second definition of gratitude in the dictionary, the one that says, “…readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Being grateful, feeling grateful, and acting grateful are three different things.
Being grateful can just be an intellectual act. For example, I’m grateful for whoever invented traffic lights that keep us safe. I am grateful, really, but quite frankly, I don’t have any feelings about that.
Many people will say gratitude is an emotion. Feeling grateful humbles us and allows us to appreciate something or someone in our lives. For example, especially during this Memorial Day weekend in the United States, I feel grateful for those in the military that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. I have good, positive feelings about the men and women who died for our freedoms.
Gratitude may have emotion tied to it, but I’ve always thought of it as a choice, which results in an action. Acting grateful is taking the time to let someone know that they’ve made a difference in our lives. It’s showing through our actions that we don’t take special people and things for granted; it’s the act of returning the kindnesses that have been given to us. It is this choice that I must emphatically proclaim the gratitude that I have for you. I appreciate that you have taken your precious time to come along with me on our Wisdom-Trek. Whether you joined me for one day or have faithfully trekked with me for the past five years, thank you!
As I reflect on gratitude, let us explore a little deeper into what it means. Gratitude is good for both parties in all kinds of relationships. For example, consider the continual gratitude I have for Paula and for all that she does for me in our marriage. I choose as often as possible to express my gratitude in both my words and my actions. She certainly does the same to me. Our gratitude for each other helps to maintain and strengthen our love for each other…Even after nearly 41 years of marriage, our gratitude for each other grows each day.
Gratitude is especially beneficial in marriages. Researcher Dolores R. Leckey writes that, “Gratitude leads to many other ‘virtues’ like laughter and fun, compassion and mercy.” Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Ph.D., professor of psychology in affective sciences, found a strong correlation between one’s own felt and expressed gratitude and marriage satisfaction. She concludes that, “truly felt gratitude toward a partner may be portrayed in nonverbal cues and in reciprocal actions…both of which could result in higher marriage satisfaction.” I can certainly back up this research in our marriage.
Researchers at U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center have found many links between gratitude and happiness. It seems that positive emotions about one thing simply make us feel better about everything. But, in order to get the benefits, we have to actively practice generating those positive emotions.
Whether by verbalizing it in thank you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, or letting the people who touch our lives know they’ve made a difference, practicing gratitude benefits everyone involved. The greatest gift you can give to everyone on a daily basis is expressing your gratitude for them. Choose to be grateful for everything today. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter in Thessalonians 5:15-18, “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Today we learned that gratitude is thanks on steroids. Next week we will focus on slowing down to live at the speed of average. Encourage your friends and family to join us on our 5-days a week podcast: Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.