I’ve started asking people at their birthday celebrations to recall some memorable events of the past year. It’s a good way to learn what has been most meaningful to them or changed them in some way.
The reflection often leads to thankfulness, even if they’ve had to weather some storms.
Of course, Thanksgiving is also a time of counting our blessings and finding gratitude for what’s sustained us.
We know that gratitude is good for us. Done throughout the year, it can lessen our anxiety, relieve stress, improve sleep, boost immunity, and even support heart health. The Ohio State University Extension Live Healthy Live Well team is tying together a variety of wellness topics related to gratitude as part of a six-week email challenge called “Gather Your Gratitude.”
One week, the team addressed how being thankful can help improve our financial situation. If we can find greater contentment in what we have, we likely will spend less.
When we stop comparing our situations to others who we see as having more than us and take time to be grateful for what we have, we don’t feel the need to spend to keep up with the neighbors, wrote team member Corinna Gromley, OSU Family and Consumer Sciences Educator from Carroll County. Studies have shown that when we show gratitude for what we have and stop comparing ourselves to others who we perceive have more money or better jobs, it improves our overall self-esteem.
Thankfulness can reduce feelings of impatience, perhaps making it easier to save and delay gratification as well as decreasing the temptation to spend.
Showing gratitude can cost little to nothing but mean the world to those on the receiving end. One of the most meaningful and effective ways to show gratitude is to send a handwritten note of thanks. The only cost is the price of a stamp. Helping someone in need requires only our time.
Counting blessings leads to feelings of abundance
When blessings are counted and not just pennies, there is a greater appreciation for what we have, leading to feelings of abundance, Gromley wrote. Individuals who feel they have “enough” are more likely to donate money or goods to charities they feel strongly about. Donating can bring about feelings of happiness because we are doing good. Studies show these acts of generosity can lead us to feel valued by others, which in turn increases our self-esteem. This boosts both mental and financial well-being, and a heart that is full of gratitude can be just as valuable as a pocket full of money.
Being truly grateful rarely comes naturally to anyone, according to Sarah Deats, behavioral health technician, but it can be practiced and learned. “Think of gratitude as a muscle,” she said. “In order to strengthen it you must exercise it. Intentionally practicing gratitude is like push-ups for your heart/soul. Woke up grouchy? Reach out to someone and tell them something about them you are grateful for. Getting ready for bed? Make being grateful the last thing you do before you go to sleep. Write down three things that happened in your day that you are grateful for. As you exercise your gratitude muscle it will get easier to find things you are grateful for.”
Sometimes we overlook the good things in life because we’re always searching for something more. No matter how much money we have, we can find so many little things in life for which to be grateful - naps, sitting on the front porch, the sound of rain on the roof, a cozy fire, a hug, an unexpected compliment, cuddling in a blanket on a cold evening, a captivating sunset, a laughter-filled conversation with a friend and the smell of bread baking.
Author Melody Beattie says it best:
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more.”
Laurie Sidle is an Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H program assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or email@example.com
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.