As I sit down to write this article about Thanksgiving it would easy to focus on negative events that have occurred in my life and be grumpy and ungrateful. Family, friends and coworkers also have challenges. One might lose perspective or become depressed. Or put on a disingenuous smile and just “fake it”. How does one remain grateful when they aren’t necessarily “feeling it”?
Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough are two of the leading American investigators of gratitude. They describe gratitude as personality strength—the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted. Grateful individuals express their thanks and appreciation to others in a heartfelt way, not just to be polite. If you possess a high level of gratitude, you often feel an emotional sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself.
A grateful person takes nothing for granted. Rather, they take a beginner’s thrill at a word of praise, at another’s good performance or at each sunny day. They are keenly aware of their continual dependence on others and the blessings they’ve been given. This is certainly counter-cultural to what we see in the general public and mainstream media.
Thinking back to the original Thanksgiving I remember that it arose from a very difficult time in history. Many pilgrims died from a rough winter. They certainly didn’t have any of the conveniences we have today. You’ve heard the saying that “Happiness is a choice” and perhaps “Gratefulness is a choice” as well.
Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants. As an owner of a company, I want such mutants working for me!
So, I decided to take an informal survey among the employees at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, Inc. I asked them what they were grateful for this Thanksgiving when it came to the lab, their workplace. Here is a sampling of some of the results:
Amazingly, after speaking with the staff and hearing their comments I realized how much I have to be thankful for this season. I’m rebelling against the feelings that were bringing me down. Soil busy season is always a challenging time for any ag lab, but I’m so thankful that I get to go through it with grateful “mutants”! HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE
Greg Neyman, Vice-President/COO
Emmons, R.A., and 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: 377-89.
Brooks, Arthur C (Nov. 21, 2015). Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html