Meister Eckhart, German theologian from
the 13th century, wrote, “If the only prayer you said your whole life
was ‘thank you’ that would suffice.” Eckhart recognized the tremendous
importance of an awareness of gratitude, not only in a religious or
spiritual sense, but also in a personal or emotional perception.
While Thanksgiving is our one day of the
year specially designated for the expression of gratefulness, some say
we should express it year-round because it is the right thing to do.
Others promote the articulation of thankfulness, because it makes the
recipient feel good.
Dr. Steven Toepfer of Kent State
University found that individuals expressing gratitude were themselves
rewarded in that they became happier and more satisfied with life. His
study was published online in the Kent State Magazine, winter 2008.
Toepfer had his students write one
letter of appreciation every two weeks. These had to be emotional, true
and personally meaningful. After each letter was written, the students
completed a survey. This simple act of inscribing heartfelt expressions
resulted in improved moods, greater senses of satisfaction with life
and feelings of happiness. The six-week program was so successful in
making the students feel better that 75 percent said they would
continue the program on their own.
Expressive writing has long been known
to have a beneficial effect on our emotional health. If we consciously
focus on expressions of gratitude, our minds become trained to think
along those lines, rather than more negative ones. We start becoming
aware and appreciative of each and every little part of our daily lives.
Expressing gratitude in words is a good
first step, but an even better course of action would be to do
something to show that emotion. John F. Kennedy said, “As we express
our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is
not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Showing kindness, doing favors or giving
gifts to others not only makes them feel better, but it brightens our
lives as well. These individuals can include most anyone: teachers,
parents, children, spouses, loved ones, grocery clerks, mail carriers.
They all can add something to the quality of our lives and are best not
taken for granted.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Albert
Schweitzer may have expressed it best: “At times our own light goes out
and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause
to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within