Beyond Thanksgiving: the Power of Gratitude

November 19, 2015 by

Why it's worth it to practice

Beautiful Young Woman Outdoors

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude's effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, better health and longevity, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and even a faster rate of recovery from surgery. Who wouldn't want that?

Even though we acknowledge the many benefits, it still can be a challenge to maintain an attitude of gratitude. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. The media doesn't help, as we're constantly exposed to stories of violence, injustice and inequality happening around the world.

For gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word or a 30-day online challenge. We have to learn a new way of looking at things and develop a new habit. It's absolutely within our reach, and it can take some time.

Woman holding smiley face poster over her faceRemember that gratitude isn't a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored (my friend Elizabeth of Positively Elizabeth refers to this as "fairy dust covering poop"). This isn't about being a Pollyanna or sticking our heads in the sand. It's more a matter of where we put our focus and attention.

Pain and injustice do exist in this world, and I'd bet most of us have experienced some of each. However, good exists along with the bad and when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us, gives us hope and better equips us to deal with the pain and injustice we see or experience.

That's why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have instead of complaining about what we lack or what's wrong in our world, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Check out what the very entertaining Positive Psychology expert Shawn Achor has to say in his TED talk. Be sure to watch to the end!


Ideas for Developing the Practice of Gratitude:

Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Start with a daily list if this is a new habit for you. Keeping that gratitude journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

Make a collage by drawing or pasting pictures as a visual reminder of things you're grateful for. 

Practice gratitude around the dinner table. Pause for a moment before you begin to eat and consider everything and everyone that went into creating that meal for you: the earth, the animals, the farmers, those who transported the food, sold it to you, or prepared it. 

Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation. It may not be easy to see those blessings in the moment, but they are there.

When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You'll be amazed by how much better you feel.

Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude itself, celebrate it!

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur. You may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Fall leaves

There are so many things to be grateful for, simple things like

  • colorful autumn leaves,
  • friends who listen and really hear,
  • great books and movies,
  • chocolate,
  • fresh eggs,
  • warm jackets,
  • sunshine on a chilly day,
  • fresh fruits and vegetables,
  • the ability to read,
  • the roof over our head and the food in our fridge,
  • flowers,
  • good health,
  • butterflies,
  • new babies,
  • the list goes on and on.

What's on your list? I'd love to hear from you!

Toni Crabtree is a speaker, coach and author who specializes in helping her clients develop food and lifestyle habits that support healthy and empowered aging. Contact Toni at

Some author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications


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