Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct.” As humans, we often believe that when we buy a house, or fall in love, or receive that well-deserved promotion at work, we will be truly happy. But why do we infer that happiness is only attainable through milestone events or achievements?
The reality of this tendency is that it may not be happiness that we are seeking and experiencing on a daily basis but instead satisfaction. Perhaps we live our day-to-day lives pursuing the things that make us happy, which then contributes to our overall sense of satisfaction.
If you look up happiness and satisfaction in a dictionary, the two definitions are quite similar. Both use words such as “joy” and “contentment,” describing a pleasant and delighted emotion. But why is it then that people often say, “Do what makes you happy” but never think to advise “Pursue what satisfies you”? It may have a different ring to it, but it is a good indicator of a different sense of contentment.
We reached out to cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D., to better distinguish happiness and satisfaction.
The difference between happiness and satisfaction.
Research shows that the most frequent uses of the word happiness revolve around describing someone’s personality, as in being characterized as a happy person. It is also used in association with materialism and experientialism, conveying that when you purchase or experience something, you may experience happiness. Although definitions are vague and vary, happiness ultimately seeks to portray a moment of temporary bliss.
“Happiness is fleeting,” Guttman explains. “Happiness is a feeling someone gets when they experience something out of the ordinary that brings them joy. With that feeling, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released, which gives us an elevated mood state. However, this elevated mood state is not sustainable because it’s reliant on the release of this neurotransmitter.”
Satisfaction, on the other hand, is an enduring feeling experienced for a longer period of time, as a result of the collection of life events and feelings you’ve experienced. Guttman describes satisfaction as a more balanced, sustainable state because it’s not neurotransmitter-dependent the way happiness is.
Or as Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., Nobel Prize winner and psychologist, explained in his TED Talk, we experience happiness in our lives as well as happiness with our lives. This latter principle is akin to the concept of satisfaction, which we experience more frequently and thus influences our attitudes and behaviors. Satisfaction is a better indicator of how content we feel toward our lives overall and may contribute to more mindful decisions that bring our lives meaning.
For example, you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by a package at your front door of a new pair of shoes that you had ordered a few days prior. At the moment of opening that package, you might experience excitement and happiness. The moment then passes, and you are onto your next activity. However, each day you wear those shoes, you are reminded of your purchase and are satisfied. Therefore, feeling satisfied has a longer-lasting impact on people’s moods, whereas experiencing happiness is an instantaneous, temporary sensation.
Which is more important?
Guttman describes satisfaction as a more long-term and tangible solution than happiness. “When people think ‘happy’ as joy or effervescence is attainable, it creates cognitive dissonance when that feeling is not sustainable,” she explains.
That said, happiness and satisfaction are intertwined, as “most people experience satisfaction on an ongoing basis, interspersed with moments of happiness,” Guttman explains. “They are both attainable, but satisfaction is more sustainable.”
“People become more satisfied by becoming more self-confident, self-reliant, by developing a strong sense of self, by developing a sense of their effectiveness in the world, and by believing in their inherent lovability,” Guttman says.
To strengthen your sense of self, she recommends finishing tasks (not just starting them), making decisions for yourself, facing fears, and avoiding people-pleasing behaviors. Facing your fears, for example, may not make you happy—but it sure is satisfying.
2. Write down at least one good thing that you experience each day.
As the saying goes: Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Especially in today’s current climate, you may feel that your daily routine has become redundant and complacent. However, it is all about where you channel your energy and focus. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or go for a relaxing bike ride, write it down. Those moments will turn into memories and will leave you feelingmore grateful and optimistic in the long run, as you are able to go back and read them. The benefits of gratitude are all about creating a sense of lifelong satisfaction, as opposed to simply seeking moments of exuberant happiness.
3. Put yourself out there.
Some research suggests extroversion is associated with more life satisfaction and overall well-being. Despite this pandemic, it is easier than ever to reach out to someone and make a new friend. From becoming a pen pal with a patient in a nursing home to just messaging an old friend you’ve lost touch with, you may rekindle or create new friendships that could enhance your interpersonal skills and revitalize your daily routine.
The bottom line.
Making happiness your destination may cause you to miss out on this exciting journey of life, a journey that has many twists and turns, with new opportunities appearing each day. Recognizing what makes you feel satisfied, on the other hand, can contribute to a more positive attitude and outlook on life while feeling more fulfilled. By living through this lens, we can experience not just moments of happiness but a lifestyle that is enduringly satisfying.
In response to the upheaval of the pandemic, researchers and the leaders of over 100 schools focused on three fundamental areas of education, whether it’s in person or virtual.
The pandemic precipitated a historic education disruption. In response, my colleagues at Baylor University and I gathered educators from around the world in virtual learning communities to determine how best to respond. Leaders from 112 schools met in virtual communities in May, June, and July to identify what is most important in education, regardless of delivery method.
In general, we decided that the three most fundamental emphases should be on well-being, engagement, and feedback. We imagined a pyramid in which well-being is the largest section, at the pyramid’s base; engagement is the middle layer; and feedback is at the pyramid’s peak.
Well-being is the base of the pyramid because Maslow’s hierarchy takes priority over Bloom’s taxonomy. Maslow’s hierarchy categorizes basic human needs, and Bloom’s taxonomy identifies different levels of learning. If students’ and teachers’ physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being are not intact, then nothing else really matters.
Before they began addressing academics, the most successful schools ensured that they cared for teachers and students’ well-being. To that end, administrators set up multiple connection points each week to check in with teachers at their convenience. They asked teachers two simple questions: “How are you doing?” and “What do you need?”
Teachers and administrators also made weekly well-being phone calls to every student’s home. Some homes received three calls a week, particularly if there were concerns about family well-being. Several schools used mentor groups of students and faculty to generate ideas for service learning projects for their families and communities. These projects helped students think beyond themselves and reduced isolation. At one school, for instance, a team of five students created a tech support hotline for students or families struggling with technology issues that arose through distance learning.
The second level in the pyramid is engagement. Students don’t learn if they’re not engaged. Whether learning occurs virtually or in person, we came up with what we called the 4 Cs of Engagement: content, competition, collaboration, and creation.
Content: Through the spring, teachers discovered innovative ways to deliver content. Schools already using robust learning management systems like Schoology and Canvas made the transition to online content delivery relatively smoothly. For teachers of pre-K through second grade, Seesaw proved an invaluable tool because of its ease of use and the ability it provides to give and receive feedback. Tools like Edpuzzle and Pear Deck allow teachers to incorporate questions and interaction into videos and Google Slide presentations.
Competition: Friendly competition, particularly for reviewing surface-level knowledge, has always been an excellent way to engage students. Quizlet has long been an excellent review tool for almost any subject area because of its large number of quizzes that have already been created by teachers and students. Also, its format enables students to receive immediate feedback on what they do and don’t know. Kahoot! has been a favorite for a number of years now and allows students to interact with each other in a game format, whether in person or over distance. Gimkit, developed by a high school student who liked Kahoot! but thought he could improve on it, is a great tool for review: It’s fast-paced but allows students to repeatedly review questions and also records how many questions each student answers correctly.
Collaboration: With the move to distance learning, teachers shifted the tools they were using to facilitate virtual student collaboration. Three tools I was not aware of at the beginning of the school year that have proved to be invaluable are Parlay, Mentimeter, and Mural. Parlay allows teachers to track discussions virtually as students discuss meaningful texts. Mentimeter allows students and teachers to collect real-time data on students’ questions in the form of word clouds, rankings, and multiple-choice quizzes. Mural is a digital workspace for virtual collaboration that allows teachers and students to post, group, and reorganize ideas in real time.
Creation: Student content creation allows for autonomy and significantly boosts engagement. Tools like , Piktochart, and Padlet allow students to create digital images and content. Screencastify, GoFormative, and Loom allow students to annotate and explain complex problems. Flipgrid enables students to submit pictures and videos for feedback from teachers and students. Apple Clips and iMovie give students the opportunity to tell their own stories.
We get better through forms of deliberate practice that also provide opportunities to receive feedback. All of the tools we used for engagement offer opportunities for both deep and immediate feedback.
Whatever tool they use, great teachers know that they need to establish the criteria for success with students. Effective success criteria include answers to the following questions: (1) What does a good example look like?, and (2) What’s in it for the student? Students need examples and a reason to improve. With clear success criteria, students can self- and peer-review work. Instead of thinking in terms of the content they will cover next year, great teachers think about the skills and knowledge that students will be able to demonstrate and how they can provide feedback to help them get there.
With the uncertainty ahead for 2020–21, clarity in these three areas is more important than ever. The good news is that well-being, engagement, and feedback are not new—they have always been the key to a good education. We just need to leverage resources to implement them well in 2020–21.
Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.
My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.
When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.
INTRODUCING THE LETTERS
To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.
Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.
Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.
Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.
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WRITING YOUR LETTERS
I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.
Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.
Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.
Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.
Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.
Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.
When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.
Are you one off those people who constantly need approval from everyone they know? Don’t you know that this is a damaging habit that will only add more stress to your decision making process and make it harder for you to do whatever it is that you want to do in life? Why do you think that other people should get a say in what you do or don’t do in life? By seeking approval from others you basically give them the power over your life and that’s completely and utterly wrong. It will not do you any good, on the contrary, it can only bring you misery and discontent so you need to stop doing it.
No one should have the power to decide what’s good for you and what’s not, other than yourself and here are a few other reasons that will convince you to never ask for approval from anyone but yourself.
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone
You make your own happiness
It’s true that the people we love and care about make our life happier, but they aren’t the ones that make or break your happiness, you’re the only one responsible for that. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you or what others say about you, you shouldn’t care about that. If you let your actions be guided by other people’s approval, you’ll never be truly happy. Remember that at the end of the day you are the one who needs to live with his decisions and you are the one who needs to be comfortable with them. No one else can know what you want in life better than yourself, so don’t worry about other people and make your own happiness. Remain true to yourself and to what makes you happy and make sure you follow that path.
You control your own life
You don’t just make your own happiness; you control your own life as well. Stop rushing to other people, asking for permission to do something, remember that you are your own master and you should decide what’s best for you. Listen to your heart and you’ll get all the guidance you need, from within. You are stronger than you think and wiser than you believe, you just need to let yourself follow your passion. People don’t know what they truly want to do with their own life, how can they know your life path? Trust yourself and let your soul guide you on this journey we call life.
You’re wasting precious time
Do you always run to your friends or family members whenever you need to make a decision about something? Can you imagine how much time you spend trying to convince everyone that you’re right or getting them to see things your way? And why? Just so that you’re sure in your actions, in your decisions? Asking other people’s approval only makes it tougher for you to reach a decision and it’s truly time-consuming. You’re wasting precious time; time that you could spend doing something you enjoy.
Don’t rely on others to support you, be your own biggest support. It’s OK to share your plans with your loved ones, but just that, inform them of your decision and don’t ask for their approval of support.
You can truly be free only if you rely solely on yourself
Can you imagine making a huge decision that will change your life all by yourself? Not to consult with anyone, not to ask for anyone’s advice, just follow your heart and gut? Yes, it’s possible to do it and you have everything you need to make this decision you just need to follow your gut instinct.
We can all be truly free only if we rely on ourselves and only if we know that we can make big changes in life without seeking anyone’s approval. It may seem scary at first but try it out, it’s so liberating. Rise to your potential and seize the day – that’s when you’ll experience true freedom.
Don’t even try to please everyone, it’s impossible
It’s completely normal to have people who don’t agree with what you say or what you do, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. You just have different views and opinions in life and that’s all that is. If you try to please everyone and get everyone to like, you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’ll fail spectacularly. It’s absolutely impossible to get everyone to agree with you and you need to accept this and not let it affect your life. Moreover, the sooner you stop trying to please everyone, the sooner you’ll be happy.
The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.
The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.
A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
Being more present
Being more content
A better understanding of who we really are
This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.
If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.
I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice
As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.
Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.
If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.
All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”
This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.
Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6
Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.
Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.
I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.
2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature
The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.
Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.
Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.
Take in the sun rising and setting.
Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.
Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.
Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.
3. Losing myself in music (art)
Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.
Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.
We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.
However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.
4. Seeking stillness
Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.
Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.
This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.
Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.
No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.
For me this means writing and playing guitar.
Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.
6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)
I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.
Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).
Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years. Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.
As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.
The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).
What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.
I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.
When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.
Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.
It is one thing to be successful and it is another thing to be exceptionally successful. But to attain a high level of success, you have to be willing to put in the work. Because the theme of the modern-day careerist is this: How do you get more done in less time?
So while a lot of people see the weekend as a time to hang out and relax, exceptionally successful people have a different idea of how Saturdays and Sundays should be spent. Here is how they spend their weekends to set the tone for a week of crazy productive work.
1. They wake up early.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to wake up at 3:45 a.m. every morning. Including on weekends. It’s wrong to assume because it’s the weekend, you need to stay in bed until midday. Successful people still get up early because they know time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted, no matter what day it is.
2. They read.
You cannot negate the power of reading. Eimantas Balciunas, CEO of Travel Ticker, says, “Reading and staying abreast on what happens in the travel industry puts me in a position to discover those things the competition apparently may have ignored!” By reading and expanding your knowledge, even and especially on weekends, you are better informed to approach your tasks for the week.
3. They spend time to reflect.
As Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” And successful people follow that philosophy, using the weekends to look back at what worked and what didn’t. By reflecting on your week, you can focus on the improvements you need to make on Monday.
4. They make time to pursue their interests.
Successful people know that chasing success shouldn’t mean they have to forget their favorite hobbies. The weekend offers you the opportunity to be creative, whatever it is you like to do most in your spare time.
Exercising can be refreshing. Not only does it strengthen your mind, it gives you the opportunity to clear your head and embrace fresh ideas for the new week.
9. They build momentum.
Successful people don’t settle for average. They are always focused on excellence by keeping up the momentum. The weekend is a good time to put things in perspective and gain clarity, to refocus on your most important goals.
10. They plan for the upcoming week.
Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has an insane work ethic—he works 16 hours Monday through Friday. But he makes sure his schedule allows him to take off Saturdays, and he uses his Sundays to plan for the upcoming week.
Well, it depends. It depends on who, where, when, and how.
If you were around in October 1621 at the Plimouth Plantation, you might have been part of the “First Thanksgiving”. Here, the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to celebrate the first harvest in the New World.
The settlers had struggled the previous winter due to a lack of supplies and food. Many had starved or became ill and died as a result. Yet, a number survived. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe, had given the colonists food to get through their first winter.
After the snow thawed, the Pilgrims gradually learned to live off the land. Squanto, from the Patuxet tribe, taught them how to grow corn and catch eel. After this successful harvest, they threw a three-day feast that included waterfowl, turkey, venison, corn, and various shellfish.
Although such festivities were held intermittently in the years since, Thanksgiving finally became a federal holiday in 1863, thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday of every November.
Fast Forward to Gratitude Today
While roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are staples for the Thanksgiving holiday today, how often do we really practice gratitude?
We complain about this and that. We get agitated when deciding what to wear if we’re not served right away at a restaurant, and after a store doesn’t stock our favorite brand of coffee. But is it a surprise, given we live in an age of abundance?
When it comes to our everyday needs and wants, we have variety right at our fingertips. We can have any type of food delivered right to our doorstep. Our phones ping notifications on today’s trending news. And if you’re looking for entertainment, just open up your internet browser. While these are all good things, we easily take what we have for granted.
People’s acts of kindness often go unrecognized. In many cases, the recipient fails to say a simple “thanks” or give any acknowledgment. In an everyday quest to get things done, people are consumed by their own lives and forget to take the time to thank others.
It seems as if the original intent behind that first Thanksgiving feast has been lost with time.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Both giving and receiving thanks are important. But in order to understand why we need to see the benefits.
There are three main benefits to being thankful:
1. Strengthening social relationships
Gratitude can help us befriend others, improve existing relationships, make amends, and recognize others’ good deeds. In romantic relationships, practicing gratitude for the little things can make all the difference. In one study, expressing gratitude towards the partner improved the relationship quality for both people.
Letting someone know that you’re grateful for the person’s actions, or simply for being in your life, can improve your relationship. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a stranger, friend, parent, relative, or whoever. Thanking others breeds positive feelings all around.
2. Improving our personal sense of well-being
In a study, one group of participants wrote about the things they were grateful for, a second group reflected on the daily things that irritated them, and a third group wrote about their week with neither a positive nor negative slant. 10 weeks later, the grateful group was more optimistic and happier about their lives, while the group that focused on negativity was more likely to visit the doctor.
Giving thanks is not only rewarding intrinsically, but it also helps us feel better about what we have. We’re more joyful overall. Even if you’re having a bad day or things don’t go the way you want, there are definitely some things that you have to be grateful for.
3. Maintaining good health
According to one study, gratitude is linked to the quality of your sleep. People who reflected on the positive things that happened in their day had a better night’s sleep than those who with a negative outlook.
The quality of your sleep is directly related to how you feel during the day and your overall health. Those who were less grateful were more stressed, anxious, and depressed. The opposite was true for those who were more grateful.
To sum it up, here’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal article “Thank You. No, Thank You” on how gratitude affects our lives:
“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections, and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.”
How to Practice Gratitude
Now that we’ve seen all the benefits of gratitude, we need to incorporate more of it into our lives Practicing gratitude can easily be done using these three ways:
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Jot down a few things you’re thankful for. Place a notebook on your bedside table so that it’s convenient. The best time of the day to write in your journal is right before sleeping. That way, you can reflect on everything that’s happened during the day and you get a happier night’s rest.
Remember to be specific. Instead of writing that you’re “thankful for your friend”, think of a specific example, such as “my friend shared her own experiences with work conflict, which helped me navigate a similar situation.” Thinking of particular instances forces you to think hard about the good things that have happened.
2. When in doubt, say “thanks”
We often forget to thank people for the little things, such as lending a pen. Sometimes, we even forget to say “thanks” for the bigger things, such as gifts or loans. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple word of thanks does wonders in making the other person feel valued.
If you met someone interesting at a networking event or completed an academic course, reach out and send an email to the person to thank them for what they taught you. Opening up the lines of communication can lead to opportunities down the road.
3. Use positive phrases
When you’re faced with a dilemma, switch out those negative phrases for positive ones. For instance, I had a power outage that lasted for days. While it was definitely inconvenient, at least I had a chance to interact with people, free of electronics, and catch up on good old-fashioned books.
Whether something is a problem or an opportunity depends on how you look at it. And the way you look at things changes your mindset, attitude, and actions.
A Simple Act of “Thanks” Can Blossom into Something More
The Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate the promise of a bright future. They made it through a difficult winter and recognized how much they had to be thankful for. They saw a place where they and their descendants could thrive.
It’s interesting how such a simple, seemingly insignificant event would go on to become an important annual tradition. If only the Pilgrims who celebrated in those early days recognized the weight of their actions then.
Who knows what significant events can unfold from the small actions you perform today?
“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.”
Fathers & Daughters – Michael Bolton
If I could catch a star for you
I swear I’d steal them all tonight
To make your every wish come true
And every dream for all your life
But that’s not how the story goes
The world is full of perfect plans
If there’s a promise that I broke
I know one day you will understand
When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
An Angel I will read to sleep
Gave me one dream of my own
So learn to love and spread your wings
And find the one to call your home
When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
When times are hard I know you’ll be strong
I’ll be there in you heart when you’ll carry on
Like moonlight on the water, and sunlight in the sky
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
Fathers and daughters never say goodbye
Audio & Video Produced by Boyce Avenue
Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by Adam Barber
Directed by Alejandro Manzano & Adam Barber
Filmed by Adam Barber & Fabian Manzano
Edited & Colored by Adam Barber
Cello by Isaac Mingus
Violin by Joy Chatzistamatis
Video Assistant: Blake Gregor
If I knew it would be the last time that I’d see you fall asleep, I would tuck you in more tightly, and pray the Lord your soul to keep. If I knew it would be the last time that I’d see you walk out the door, I would give you a hug and kiss, and call you back for just one more.