Saying Your Thank-Yous!
Marci Shimoff

  
A year ago, at a get-together of a dozen girlfriends from college, I saw my old friend Therese Gibson.  Therese had been one of the fun girls at school; she'd had an easy laugh and had always been up for an adventure.  When she heard I was writing this book, she told me about the daily gratitude ritual she and her ninety-five-year-old father, Charlie, practice--they call it "saying their thank-yous"--that keeps them smiling and feeling good.  Therese moved in with Charlie, who's still sharp as a tack, at a bad time in both their lives.  Charlie's wife, Therese's mother, had just died, and Therese was at the tail end of a painful divorce.  Money was tight and Therese says they were as glum as any two people could be.  But both of them had heard that gratitude was a great way to feel better, so they decided to sit together for a few minutes each morning before Therese headed off to work and tell each other the three things they were grateful for in their lives.

"It was slow going in the beginning," Therese told me.  "The first time we did it, I was feeling so low I had a hard time thinking of even one thing I was grateful for."  Finally, she looked around the room and saw a vase she liked.  She told Charlie, "I'm grateful for how pretty that vase is."  It sounded silly, but it was the best she could do.  Charlie wasn't any better at it, often waiting for Therese to give him a clue about what to say.  But she and Charlie both noticed that even a thank-you for something superficial had a good effect.

 Soon, their decision to focus on what was right in their lives began to pay off.  Both Therese and Charlie started to feel happier and notice that more and more things were going their way.  Even their money situation improved.  Three thank-yous became five, became ten, and soon they had to stop listing the good things in their lives long before they ran out of things to say, or Therese would be late for work.

One day, they were feeling so light and happy after finishing their lists that Charlie, who'd always liked the musical Oklahoma!, started singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning."  Therese joined in.  It was the perfect expression of how being grateful made them feel.  They added this song to their ritual and now, saying their thank-yous and singing together has become one of the highlights of their day.

What you're grateful for, you get more of.  When you appreciate the happiness and love you already experience, more happiness and love come to you.

I've experienced myself how powerful gratitude is.  After the heartbreak I went through, a friend told me to write down five things I was grateful for each night before I went to bed for three weeks straight.  I knew that psychologists say it takes twenty-one days to change a habit, so I agreed.  At first I struggled, but my results kept me going.  In fact, this simple little exercise worked so well that I continued doing it every night for the next three years, and over time, the pain in my heart eased.

I suggest you try the gratitude exercise yourself.  Every night before you go to sleep, list five things that you're grateful for that day, and notice how you feel when you wake up the next morning.

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If your gratitude depends on what life gives you or what other people do
for you or to you, you will be disappointed more often than you are grateful.
But you can learn to feel grateful by rethinking your attitude towards life.
First, remember that contentment lies in giving.  If you know that giving
is better than receiving, then you can feel grateful for what you are able
to give others.  This does not mean you ignore your own needs.  You will
decide what to give and how to give it, and then at the end of the day
you will be grateful for having had the chance to give in your own way.
Remember, we all have something to give, and our ability to give is
not related to our finances or physical strength.

Bernie Siegel

  

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