This is the last issue of the THINKERS Roundup that will hit your inbox before Thanksgiving here in the U.S. next Thursday.
So I want to take this opportunity to express how grateful I am for the power of gratitude.
Especially in a year like 2020, which has been so challenging and anxiety-inducing for so many people, setting aside a day to consider what you're thankful for should be helpful.
This is true even if the pandemic's continued spread means you're dealing with the disappointment of a Thanksgiving that neither looks nor feels like what we're used to experiencing each November.
Ideally, gratitude should be practiced throughout the year, not just on one day. But modern life can have us feeling so busy at times that we forget to make time for it.
That's okay. It happens to all of us. Don't waste time lamenting missed opportunities; just resolve to take the next one.
Because whether you're dealing with anxiety, grief, mild feelings of depression, or even just the "meh" feeling induced by the Hedonic treadmill, gratitude can be the antidote. This week's links will show you how.
And in the interest of leading by example, I'll share a few examples of stress and disappointment from my own life that I've been working on reframing through a lens of gratitude.
- My 4-year old daughter hasn't been able to go to school, which has totally disrupted the way I work ... but... I'm so grateful for the extra memories I've been able to create with her because of the additional time we've spent together.
- The process of putting our house on the market has added a ton of extra work and stress for me and my wife during an already busy time ... but ... I'm so grateful for the lessons I've learned about the impact that a more minimalist approach at our new house will have.
- One of my side projects is earning significantly less revenue now and is presenting some major scheduling challenges ... but ... I'm so grateful for the people I've met and developed relationships with through this project, which makes it worth sticking with.
- A trip I was planning to take, a hobby I was planning to resume, and holidays plans have all been affected by the pandemic ... but... I'm so grateful that being vigilant and taking precautions, no matter how annoying or disruptive, has helped my immediate and extended family stay healthy (knock on wood).
Granted, not every negative occurrence can be flipped on its head into something that inspires gratitude. This isn't about adopting a Pollyanna view of life and the world.
Instead, it's about recognizing that you do have immense power to intentionally frame what you experience and exert control over how you view it.
This is why it's so important to remember to be grateful for the things you take for granted (the presence of your senses, running water, another day of life, etc) and to seek meaning even in suffering. When you do, the less anxiety and anger you'll feel and the more free and clear-headed you will be to do your best thinking.
So as you ponder what you're grateful for over the next week, carve out a little space to be grateful for gratitude itself.
It's a potent medicine. You just have to remember to take it regularly.
Now here are three links that will offer more insight into why gratitude is so powerful and how to incorporate more of it in your daily life.
"It’s important to note that the mental health benefits of gratitude writing in our study did not emerge immediately, but gradually accrued over time. Although the different groups in our study did not differ in mental health levels one week after the end of the writing activities, individuals in the gratitude group reported better mental health than the others four weeks after the writing activities, and this difference in mental health became even larger 12 weeks after the writing activities."
Read: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain (Greater Good Magazine)
Perception is everything ... so change yours
"The power of the hedonic reset method is that it changes our reference point. Because our expectations are relative to our reference point, this in fact brings our expectations to a level where we can find joy in what we have now.
After the reset, you have the same things you always had—but relatively they feel better than before. It can seem magical because nothing external has changed, just your perception of it."
Watch: How To Hack Gratitude: Try A Hedonic Reset (Julia Clavien)
The little expressions of gratitude throughout the day add up to something meaningful
"Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
Managers who remember to say "thank you" to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder."
Read: Giving thanks can make you happier (Harvard Health Publishing)
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
-- G.K. Chesterton