Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving Thanks

Hi Everyone,
My apologies for not posting in a while, being a graduate student leaves hectic times in the middle to end of a school semester, so I hope you will be forgiving ;) Over the course of the next month my posts may be a little less frequent due to the crunch time of finals.

Anyways, I'd like to take this time, with it being so close to Thanksgiving, to think about gratitude. "Gratitude?" I hear you say, "What the heck does that have to deal with saving money or going green?" Well, more than you would think.

In counseling, therapists will many times implement the use of something called a gratitude journal, where each day (usually right before you go to bed), you write down 3 things you are thankful for that day. This many times will decrease depressive symptoms, according to research, as well as my own personal experience. Now, I know likely most of you reading do not suffer from depressive symptoms, however, this can also be a protective factor in addition to increasing happiness.

"I still don't get it, what does it have to deal with money or green-ness?" In especially American society, our culture defines happiness by how many things one attains, whether its material possessions or the titles we earn, etc. A gratitude journal reinforces the idea to be grateful for what we have, and that things could be much, much worse. Many times we think we would be happier if we had x amount more money, or had that pair of designer pants, or that new flat screen TV. But research shows that isn't the case, and in some cases, it could be the opposite. Lottery winners after a year are no happier than where they were before they won, and sometimes they may even lose their friends over this "wonderful" happening. Especially when the holidays come around, I'm happy just to have a loving family that I yearn to see at Christmas, rather than worrying and thinking about all the gifts I will receive. Because I live so far away from my family, I am thankful when I do get to see them, and it puts unneccessary ideas and thoughts out of my mind, leaving whats most important, the people in our lives. Just as they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder", when we are deprived of luxury we will then appreciate it when we can experience it.

Another idea is called a "Thanksgiving Jar" where families, or it could just be yourself, will write down on a slip of paper when they are thankful about something good that happened recently, and you place it in the jar. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, there should be a decent amount of things to be thankful for, and they are read by members of the family.

Either way, when Thanksgiving comes around, be thankful for those things that are most important to you, and even consider trying one of the ideas listed here. You will be amazed at the positive feelings they give you, and what you may give to other people as well.

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