This is probably one of the most difficult blogs I’ve set myself to write as I am inherently pessimistic and don’t practice gratitude enough although I’ve been told and read about it many times. In fact my favourite saying might suggest that whatever I have achieved is down to me and thus there is no need to thank others. “The harder I worked, the luckier I got!” However even I recognise the need to be more grateful for the actions of others, what I have, what I haven’t got and simply just being alive. So, what was it that sparked me to write this blog at the very moment? I’m struggling and feeling rather ungrateful for the situation I and others find themselves in right now? A podcast!
So what drives my negativity when there is so much to be grateful for? The Coronavirus Pandemic, world politics, climate change, poverty, the selfishness of others – I could go on but that’s the point I’m looking in the WRONG direction!
So, here is a well-known quote from Anon – “Do as I say, not as I do!” – something I heard 100’s of time at Med School! I’ve not got my head fully around this but know deep down how valuable a lesson this is if I/we want increased happiness and contentment in life and possibly particularly in later life and retirement, as well as to improve the wellbeing of others and the first step is apparently incredible easy and utilises just two words which I challenge you to rearrange the order of and say more and more often! ‘You’ & ‘Thank’. These two words can change how you and those around you, look at the world.
The interviewee A.J. Jacobs discusses his thoughts about how grateful he was everyday for his cup of Joe Coffee and admits like me to a certain amount of curmudgeonliness so decided to make a special point of thanking the barista – apparently it made her day! However, he took it further even traveling to Columbia to thank the farmers. Each step along the chain would open up many others to thank – the truck driver, the road worker, the guy who paints the lines, the person manufacturing the machine the that paints the lines, the paint maker – I think you get the picture! (It even included the lady in charge of the pest control in the warehouse where the beans were stored!) and when he got to Columbia of course the farmer said he couldn’t have done it without the 100 steps before. Now, he nor I are not suggesting traveling to the Columbian coffee farm (and what about sugar, cocoa beans, and chocolatiers?) via 100 steps but maybe to consider that most people we meet are a small cog in the machine that keeps our machine going and fixing it when it breaks, even when we don’t notice.
The idea was deceptively simple: New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs decided to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey takes him across the globe, transforms his life, and reveals secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected.
Author A.J. Jacobs discovers that his coffee—and every other item in our lives—would not be possible without hundreds of people we usually take for granted: farmers, chemists, artists, presidents, truckers, mechanics, biologists, miners, smugglers, and goatherds.
By thanking these people face to face, Jacobs finds some much-needed brightness in his life. Gratitude does not come naturally to Jacobs—his disposition is more Larry David than Tom Hanks—but he sets off on the journey on a dare from his son. And by the end, it’s clear to him that scientific research on gratitude is true. Gratitude’s benefits are legion: It improves compassion, heals your body, and helps battle depression.
Jacobs gleans wisdom from vivid characters all over the globe, including the Minnesota miners who extract the iron that makes the steel used in coffee roasters, to the Madison Avenue marketers who captured his wandering attention for a moment, to the farmers in Colombia.
Along the way, Jacobs provides wonderful insights and useful tips, from how to focus on the hundreds of things that go right every day instead of the few that go wrong. And how our culture overemphasizes the individual over the team. And how to practice the art of “savoring meditation” and fall asleep at night. Thanks a Thousand is a reminder of the amazing interconnectedness of our world. It shows us how much we take for granted. It teaches us how gratitude can make our lives happier, kinder, and more impactful. And it will inspire us to follow our own “Gratitude Trails.”
In positive psychology research indicates that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness by helping people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. It’s also contagious. Expressing gratitude to another, for example making a special effort to thank someone improves their happiness too and if they make this connection, they too may be more grateful and pass it forward! Let’s hope we can infect the whole world!
People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.
Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude.
In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month. So, think what it might have done for the recipients of these letters – probably made their month too!
Retirement is an opportunity to trensition from TOIL to TOYL – Hopefully you are working on this or have already managed it. However there is loss too (see other blogs) but so long as we manage to tip the scales with some Positive Gratuity you really can have the Time Of Your Life!
So why not give it a try? Action for Happiness even have a free app
So the theory goes be grateful for what you have and not for what you haven’t
Andrew Mathews writes and gives seminars on happiness.