This quote, attributed to the wise Buddha, is not only true but is also great inspiration for creating holiday rituals. The season of giving is also the season of thankfulness for what you’ve been given. And what’s more: scientists have proven that being thankful leads to experiencing more joy.
GRATITUDE: THE HAPPY PILL YOU MAKE YOURSELF
When you slow down to reflect on the things you have, it inspires greater personal happiness. It helps us feel more positive about our standing in life and the people around us. Thankful people are generally more upbeat, are able to savour positive experiences more intently and can handle setbacks more easily. Because gratitude is an emotion we express towards others, it also helps us forge more meaningful, lasting relationships.
THE SCIENCE OF SAYING “THANK YOU”
Dr. Robert Emmons, author of the book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, conducted an experiment involving several hundred people who were asked to record their thoughts in a daily journal. They were split into 3 groups: those who were asked to write down a simple account of their day without describing things as “good” or “bad,” those who were instructed to only document negative aspects of their day and finally, those who were told to write about only the things they were thankful for that day.
The results of the study were overwhelmingly in favour of gratitude. Ten weeks into the experiment, the group who expressed thanks in their journals reported more alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. Conversely, they also experienced less depression and stress. It resulted in more tangible positive change as well, like exercising more regularly, helping others and making greater progress toward achieving personal goals.
GRATITUDE + SOULFULNESS = HAPPINESS
In a lot of ways, being thankful every day is the definition of being soulful. Let us give you an example. It’s a few weeks before Christmas, and you’re scurrying around trying to create the perfect experience for your loved ones. The toy your son so desperately wants is out of stock, the ham you ordered for Christmas dinner might not get here in time and the zipper in your favourite holiday dress is broken. All irritating and disappointing developments, surely. However, the soulful mom slows down, reflects for a minute and realizes how lucky she is to spend time with her loved ones—toys, entrée or outfit are actually irrelevant. Giving thanks for what we do have instead of bemoaning what we don’t is a motto for soulfulness. And it’s a motto we should be living by every single day.
YOUR DAILY GRATITUDE RITUAL
This holiday season, make gratitude part of your daily ritual. Write a thank you note. Thank somebody in person for a small kindness. Create a gratitude jar and fill it with pieces of paper that say what you’re grateful for at that moment, and ask your family to add to it so that you can read them aloud during Christmas dinner. These things are so simple, yet they have a tremendous impact.
Most importantly, remember that being thankful causes joy in others and joy within yourself. As author Melody Beattie once wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”