November in the US is all about Thanksgiving – but being grateful all year round can have even greater benefits
With the quintessential American holiday Thanksgiving just around the corner, more and more people are turning their attention to things in life for which they are grateful. Interestingly, gratitude is reportedly practiced as a weekly habit by a large majority of US citizens. One survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 78% of Americans “feel a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness on a weekly basis” and only 6% experience strong feelings of gratitude “seldom or never”. Gratefulness, then, seems to be an integral part of American culture.
Ironically, though, Thanksgiving day is one of the days Americans tend to feel the least thankful! In another survey, 3 in 5 Americans said that they would rather do something else on Thanksgiving – like watch football, read a book, or spend time with a pet – than meditate on things to be thankful for. And we get it, planning for black Friday shopping, planning and cooking a spectacular dinner, the stress of travel and visiting with family members we rarely see, all of this can easily become overwhelming and overshadow the true purpose of the holiday.
Yet, as individuals, families, and communities, we all have many a blessing to count. So to get the ball rolling and to promote gratitude in our offices and among our readers, we decided to ask our legal team what they felt thankful for this year. Here is what they had to say:
Partners, Parents and… Pets
“I am thankful for my wife/best friend of 36 years and for my 95-year-old mother who I visit almost every day!”
– Anthony S. Buglio
“I’m thankful to be married to the love of my life and to have a clown of a new puppy named Porkchop.”
Family and Friends
“I am most thankful for my wife and family, but, a close second is the chance to work with a great group of human beings, the Marasco & Nesselbush team.”
-Joseph P. Marasco
“I am thankful for the blessing of a healthy and happy 19-month old daughter who is full of life and energy.”
-Jane R. Duket
“I am thankful, of course, for my family, my friends, and my coworkers. But this year is even more important – my daughter had a mole that the doctors were very concerned about. Thankfully – she got the results yesterday – it was borderline melanoma but they believe they got it all and got it in time. So yes, I am very, very thankful this year!”
“I am thankful for the opportunity to fight for those who otherwise might not be in a position to fight for themselves.”
God’s Love (and Pets Again)
“I am thankful for God’s love and care for all – and for my grandson, Elly’s Bengal cat Mowgli.”
-Mariam A. Lavoie
Prominent Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus has been credited with the quote; “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has”. This aphorism carries a vital truth. Gratitude, sometimes defined as the quality of being thankful or the readiness to show appreciation, is not a mere feeling that randomly happens to us. It is primarily a mindset, a choice that we make about how we will look at our lives and what happens to us. Granted, when we are shown kindness or experience something good, we do normally feel thankful; nevertheless, gratitude is so much more than that. It can be seen as a skill which we can master with practice. Making gratitude one’s dominant mindset or attitude towards life may not be easy but it is achievable. However, does it really pay off to do so, as Epictetus would have us believe?
Yes, practicing gratitude can have real, tangible benefits. There is an ample scientific evidence that being a grateful person can positively influence one’s happiness and overall well-being. For example, according to a growing body of research, making gratitude the dominant aspect of one’s outlook on life can positively influence one’s health. Practicing gratitude has been related to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lower incidents of heart disease, and lower risk of depression and anxiety.
One study conducted in 2003 demonstrated how being grateful can make us feel happier about our lives in general. In the study, a group of randomly chosen participants was divided into three subsets. The first subset was told to maintain a weekly list of things for which they were grateful. The subjects in the second subset were to conduct a similar list, but instead of good things, they would list hassles, the little burdens of everyday life. The third subset would write down neutral events. The results? After ten weeks, the subjects in the first subgroup – the ones who kept the “gratitude journals” – reported significantly higher levels of happiness and satisfaction than those who kept track of bad or neutral events. The bottom line? When you’re grateful things just don’t look better – they really do get better for you.
To paraphrase German poet Friedrich Schiller; the most difficult things to see, are the things which are right before our eyes. Taking some time to think about what we are grateful for will help us feel – and show – gratitude year round towards those whom we feel closest to. So what are you thankful for this year?