The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines gratitude as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks”, and appreciation as “an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something”. To be grateful is to run an inventory-check of the good things in your life, and to be reminded of their value. It’s an interesting exercise, because when you do it you often realize that the list is longer than you thought, and that each item on it has immense. It is well-known people often realize the value of things only when they no longer have them – it is easier to assess the value of a loss. Being grateful means that you check the balance of your life-account intentionally. You don’t have to lose it to appreciate its wealth, and when you find it, it’s like finding a treasure or winning the lottery.
The practice of gratitude has been found to have many merits. When people rediscover their hidden treasures, they become more satisfied with life. Simple gratitude journaling exercises (like writing three good things at the end of the day ), have been shown to result in sustainable increases in satisfaction levels, and to increase one’s ability to cope with adverse life events . Moreover, gratitude and happiness feed off each other in a cycle: Gratitude leads to enhanced enjoyment of life benefits, recollection of life events in a more positive way, and in the induction of a range of positive emotions. These, in turn, increase your ability to recognize the good in events and attribute good intentions to people, making you more grateful, and then back again . Expressing your gratitude can even improve your physical health and your sleep patterns .
With the Holidays right around the corner, before embarking on resolutions and goals for the New Year, it is a good time to take stock of your good fortune, and to run an annual inventory of the value of things:
- Go over all domains of your life: career, finances, friends, family, relationships, fun and recreation, health and fitness, physical environment, and personal growth
- In each of these domains, list at least three good things that are extremely valuable to you
- For each of them, write down why it is that you feel fortunate, and what it is specifically that you appreciate
- Finally, imagine what great things can happen in the future as a result of this good fortune that you have
Going through all domains of your life and recognizing the value of what you have can work wonders for your well-being, and the holiday of Thanksgiving provides a perfect opportunity to do it. This week take an hour of your time to run your inventory. You may discover a bounty whose value is greater than the best black Friday deals.
 Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), 410.
 Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377.
 Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press.