By Tracey Matthews Wynter, Supervisor of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department
Last month I came across a great article about gratitude. Being that this is what I personally consider the best year of my life, I couldn’t resist reading it. This month I would like to share a fellow author’s perspective as it is directly related to this month’s topic, “Giving Thanks”, and specifically how gratitude applies to the past, present, and the future. Below are excerpts from the article written by Dr. Harvey B. Simon, editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier
November kicks off the holiday season with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals.
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. 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).
Research on Gratitude
Two psychologists, 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.
Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
Write a thank-you note. Thank someone mentally.
Keep a gratitude journal. Count your blessings.
MY THANK YOU NOTE: Thank you readers for taking the time to read and even apply some of the ideas and strategies that are shared in Knoxville Parent Magazine.
MY MENTAL THANK YOU NOTE: Thank you to my high school English teacher who made me feel confident about writing. You are the reason I enjoy writing monthly articles for Knoxville Parent Magazine.
Please share your success stories, related tips, and/or topic suggestions for future articles by contacting Mrs. Tracey Matthews Wynter, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department Supervisor, 865-594-9525, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and resources available to Knox County Schools’ students and families, please visit us online at knoxschools.org/fce.
FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER’S RESOURCE OF THE MONTH:
Toys for Tots
The 2015 Toys for Tots season is finally here! Applications will be accepted until November 13, 2015 – an application must be filled out in order to be considered. To apply, visit knoxville-tn.toysfortots.org/ and under the “Give and Receive” column, select and complete the “Family Toy Request Form.” If you have questions or for additional information, contact SSgt Nathaniel Fowler by phone at (865) 522-2414 or by email at email@example.com.
For additional local resources, contact Mrs. Tamekia Jackson, Knox County Schools Family Resource Center Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 865-594-1192.
Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at knoxschools.org.