Perspectives: The ‘gratitude list’ experiment

OPINION – Maybe it’s no coincidence that Thanksgiving falls just weeks before the Christmas holiday season. We stop to give thanks for all that we have, with all the humility we can muster, before we race to accumulate material items by the truckload and check off our Christmas wish lists.

Maybe it was “divine intervention;” a dose of thankfulness before we indulge ourselves with gifts.

I like Thanksgiving; a “no pressure” holiday centers on great food, family togetherness and nothing but enjoying each other’s company. It even involves becoming “one with the couch” as we indulge in football, parades and movies, as we try to overcome our tryptophan-food-induced-comas.

Yet, the most important thing about Thanksgiving is the purpose of the holiday. To give thanks; to show gratitude for all that we have in this life. As an exercise in humility and perspective, gratitude is one of the most important virtues we can possess.

A relative of mine had a wonderful family-night exercise in gratitude. He told his kids to write down everything they were grateful for on a piece of paper and what they didn’t list on the piece of paper would be taken away. The kids started writing down all of their material items, their game consoles, their toys and items that were special to them. Realizing that anything that they did not list could be taken away, they started to panic a little as they started to frantically jot down the names of all the people in their lives that were special to them, even neighbors and even people that they did not know very well. The focus of the list became the names of people as the toys were decidedly less important. The exercise went on for more than an hour, as the children started to tire and their hands started cramping from the excessive writing.

Those children learned such an invaluable lesson; we have so much to be grateful for that it is actually quite difficult to list everything.

If you had to leave out all of the material items, or more specifically, the items that you own, what would your list include? Would your list still be as long?

Therapists will often have a patient focus on gratitude when they need to help someone develop a positive attitude if they are depressed. Focusing on what we have, instead of what we do not have can change someone; gratitude can shift a perspective instantly. If we have car trouble, how many times in the midst of that frustration are we grateful for the times our car actually worked and did just what we expected of it. How grateful are we for our health before someone we know is stricken with a horrible disease?

If everything in our lives went perfectly, we would never have an opportunity to develop the character of possessing thankfulness and humility.

Gratitude can change everything.

The utter humility of thankfulness can bring people closer together, heal broken hearts and keep us humbly aware of all of the things that we can easily take advantage of. Our children are hopefully, more focused this holiday season on “giving” rather than “receiving”.

My own children can hardly recall what gifts they received the previous year; yet, they can recall in detail those Christmas seasons when we have served other less fortunate families and have given freely to them. Gratitude for what we have, prompts us to reach out to others; that is truly the spirit of the holiday season.

I am grateful for so many things, for so many amazing people in my life that I count as family and friends, and so many rich blessings that have made my life incredible.

Maybe, true heartfelt gratitude should be part of our daily experience. When the pilgrims sat down for that iconic Thanksgiving meal, they were not grateful for anything but their newfound freedoms and each other; gratitude at its finest.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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