Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
This week was Thanksgiving Day for those who live in (or associate with) the USA (several other nations have similar days around this time of year). This is traditionally a time to give thanks for the harvest of the year, and whilst the occasion may now be somewhat more focused on friends and families getting together for huge feasts for one day of the year, giving thanks is still for many at the heart of the day.
But what if, instead of giving thanks only once a year, between the mounds of left-over turkey and the inevitable overflowing bowls of dessert, we gave thanks every day?
Now, I’m not talking about massive Thanksgiving-style dinners every day, nor am I talking about official ceremonies or services for the offering of thanks. I’m talking about each of us, individually and daily, consciously taking a few moments out of our busy days to be truly thankful for something. It can be thanks for something major like that new job or a massive opportunity, but equally importantly it can be thanks for something seemingly trivial and mundane, such as being thankful for having enough food to eat, or being thankful for daily contact with valued friends, or even simply being thankful for waking up that day in one’s own warm, dry and comfortable bed.
Why bother doing this? Surely taking a few seconds to say “Thank you for me having a bed” isn’t going to do anything. Is it? In their paper Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by the American Psychological Association, Inc. (2003, Vol. 84, No. 2, 377–389), Robert A. Emmons University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough University of Miami report on a series of studies they conducted to investigate the effect of focusing on the positive versus focusing on the negative or on neither. They concluded that “Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.” These findings are experienced by many people all across the globe.
What happens is that the more you focus on looking for things for which to be thankful or grateful, the more you find them, and the happier you will tend to find you are.
There is also another positive effect – by focusing on the positives, you start to realise that you succeed far more often than you may have previously believed. And as we’ve discussed previously, once you start to realise that you can and do succeed, the more you realise how much more you can achieve, which naturally boosts your own levels of confidence.
So how can you go about thanking yourself to confidence?
There are three good options you could follow –
- Each morning when you wake up, before getting out of bed, think of three things for which you are thankful, and express that thanks in whatever way feels right for you.
- Each evening after you have gone to bed and before you go to sleep, think back over your day and spot five things from the day for which you are thankful or grateful, and express thanks in whatever way feels right for you.
- Keep a Gratitude Diary. This can be a diary or even something as simple as a small notebook which you can keep in a pocket and carry around with you. Throughout the day, every time you think of something for which you are thankful, write it down in your Diary. Periodically review your Diary (perhaps nightly or weekly) and see just how much cause for gratitude you truly have in your life.
If you are feeling really dedicated, you could opt to follow two of these or even all three for maximum benefit.
So why not run with this until the end of 2012 (only about 5 weeks) and see how you get on – who knows, you may just find that thanks and gratitude has such a positive effect upon you that it becomes a worthwhile lifetime habit!