In this pre-Covid-vaccine Thanksgiving, being grateful is not so easy. Still, there is a time-honored medicine you can start taking now: the gratitude pill. First, tradition. Meister Eckhart, the German Dominican theologian, philosopher, and mystic who died around 1327, famously said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” The modern version of Eckhart’s advice is counting our blessings. When we regularly follow this practice, we come to realize how much we have to be thankful for and can live a happy, or happier, life. In achieving this goal, we often think of those less fortunate than we are. “I complained that I had no shoes until I met someone who had no feet,” goes the saying.
Now for the science. “In recent years, a large body of literature has developed showing that gratitude is related to a wide variety of forms of well-being.” So say Alex M. Wood, Jeffrey J. Froh, and Adam W.A. Geraghty of the Universities of Manchester (UK), Hofstra, and Southampton (UK), respectively, in their 2010 scholarly paper “Gratitude and Well-being: A Review and Theoretical Integration” published in The Clinical Psychology Review. In a fascinating 2008 essay in The Journal of School Psychology, “Counting Blessings in Early Adolescents: An Experimental Study of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being,” Jeffrey J. Froh, William J. Sefick, and Robert A. Emmons “examined the effects of a grateful outlook on [the] subjective well-being and other outcomes of positive psychological functioning in 221 early adolescents.” Here’s what they found: “Results indicated that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction, and decreased negative affect... Counting blessings [thus] seems to be an effective intervention for well-being enhancement in early adolescents.”
For an audio-visual on the subject, check out David Steindl-Rast’s Nov 27, 2013 fourteen-minute TED Talk entitled “Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =UtBsl3j0YRQ. “Grateful living—that is the thing,” says Brother David, a Catholic Benedictine monk from Vienna. He continues, and I paraphrase, every moment of life is a gift which offers us the opportunity to be grateful. William Penn (d. 1718) puts the same idea like this: “The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” In other words, learn to be grateful and practice that virtue as often as possible. Bottom line: In these challenging times, make sure to take your gratitude pill every day.