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What's so great about gratitude?


I know, it’s a little cliche to talk about gratitude on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, but I truly believe in the transformational possibilities of gratitude. First of all, there’s brain science behind this truth - researchers have found that gratitude — intentionally expressing thanks for a positive experience — is linked to an enlarged capacity for happiness. It's also possible to slow down hedonic adaptation by continuing to reflect on and appreciate the events and circumstances that changed your life (

Hedonic adaptation. Insipid destroyer of happiness. Have you heard of it? This is the phenomenon where I might want something so bad - from new shoes to a new house - and once acquired, my joy in the achievement diminishes pretty quickly. When I can be intentional with my gratitude, I’ll love those Blundstones for a lot longer.

I’ve written here before, that I can sit at my desk and start to write about my gratitude for my post-it notes, and my colored pens, and my travel trinkets, and the photos of my children, family, and friends, and suddenly my veins are flowing with the milk of human kindness. My head and heart feel as one, given enough focus on gratitude.

Along with the great food, I think the spirit of gratitude is the reason I love Thanksgiving. I love planning the menu and finding new recipes to complement our traditional standbys. I love the argument about rolls - I will never serve rolls. If you want ‘em, you better bring ‘em. Same with mashed potatoes. I mean, I love mashed potatoes, but I can make them any day of the week - so no, not on Thanksgiving. But somebody always makes them, dammit.

In my family, I cut out leaves from construction paper and pass them out to everyone to write what they are grateful for. I hang them on a branch - our Thanksgiving Tree and then after dinner, groaning with full bellies, we pass them out, read them aloud and try to guess who wrote which one. I love the gathering and the talk and honoring that we have so much to be grateful for.

I am particularly fond of exceptional stories of gratitude, where gratitude made a noticeable difference. My dear friend had back surgery last winter. Remember last winter before there was a vaccine? She had to go to the hospital for complicated back surgery where doctors would operate on one side of her and then flip her over and operate some more. It was serious and complex and she had to go alone, because, well, COVID. Her husband literally dropped her off and she entered the hospital to begin this surgical odyssey all on her own.

She was scared, and to prepare for this ‘adventure’, she consulted a book recommended to her -