Attitude of gratitude

People who express gratitude on a regular basis have better physical health, optimism, progress toward goals, well-being, and help others more.

~ R.A. Emmons + C.A. Crumpler in “Gratitude as a human strength”

When I was a student at the Institute for Integrative NutritionJames Pawelski of UPenn’s Positive Psychology Center was one of our guest speakers, and one of the positive psychology exercises we were encouraged to try was to develop an “attitude of gratitude” by daily listing 3 things for which we were grateful. Simple, right?

Well, if you’ve ever tried the “November gratitudes” exercise that comes around every year on Facebook, you quickly realize how rarely we make a practice of being grateful.

If you’re anything like me, the first few days are easy: family, friends, food, clothing, shelter, employment. (That’s only 6.)  The next can be a bit more difficult: education, music, books, art. (You’re only 10 days in.)

Then slowly there’s a shift: you really start looking around instead of just seeing, you really start listening instead of just hearing, you really start tasting instead of just eating.

And then suddenly it’s really a practice: you just give thanks without even thinking about it – for the frost that trims every blade of grass, for the deer that stood in the middle of the road and wondered why you were in such a hurry, for the triumphant smile your child flashes when he finally nails a skateboarding trick that’s been stumping him for months….

And now everything in the world is happening for you instead of to you, and that’s when the real magic starts to

This year, I haven’t participated in the November gratitudes but I’ve enjoyed those my friends are posting.

I saw someone griping about how “Everyone’s posting how grateful they are, and then 30 days later it’s back to the same old rants.” Mmm, no. My experience has been that once it’s a gratitude practice, there’s no need to post about it because there’s no longer a need for accountability.

This year, I do want to mention a few special gratitudes:

  • For all my clients: thank you for helping me to make a living doing what I love and for teaching me something at every session.
  • For Scott and Paula, my peer coaches: thanks for keeping me on the path and for your support on the journey.
  • For Angela: thank you for getting me back into the kitchen/classroom at a crucial moment.
  • For Chad: thank you (I think?) for “Absolutely. You can do that! Proceed with confidence.”
  • For Ingela, my partner in the cookbook project: thank you for testing the recipes and for your family’s good-natured patience with the experiments. I can barely write a recipe down, much less make it as written.
  • For Marine, my sister friend: thank you for your editor’s eye. You have the perfect touch and know exactly when to push and when to praise.
  • For all the others who have dropped into my life out of nowhere and jumped into my project with their offerings of time and talents.
  • For Max: thank you for taking a chance and following through with your support.

On to 2016 and all the good in store – let me know what you’re grateful for in the comments!