By Dawn Brand Fluhler—
MUNCIE, IN—Thanksgiving Day is only a single day on the calendar for us to express thankfulness and gratitude. Sometimes folks do that, as my family does, standing in a circle around the dining room table hand-in-hand taking turns sharing that one shiny thing we’re thankful for. For the Brands that ranges from butterflies to a roof over our heads to engagements or babies on the way to the abundance of love and comfort we’ve enjoyed.
Twelve years ago this fall I was finishing up grad school research on gratitude theory. At that time in my life as a young divorced mom I was working hard to ensure I could show up as my best self every day for my children, both financially and emotionally. The emotional part was more of a challenge given long days of school and volunteering, freelance and contract writing and photography, and hauling youngsters to and from their many activities. I’m certainly grateful I was able to manage all of that.
An important part of that gratitude theory research included a self-conducted experiment that I called “from attitude to gratitude,” with the expectations that during that month of November, over the course of 30 days I might transform my emotional state from the mundane going-through-the motions and fake-it-til-you-make-it to one that would be generally more positive, happy, cheerful, and gracious. I would do so by intentionally pausing each day to consider something I was genuinely grateful for. Much of the research I sourced back then and even the newer research today indicates that I wasn’t wrong, and my personal experiment proved to me, too, that this exercise worked.
Plato, Aristotle, Buddha, Tony Stewart, and numerous others have historically mentioned gratitude. A quick web search of “gratitude quotes” will net you dozens, if not hundreds of insightful thoughts and statements. Try it when you’re seeking inspiration for finding gratitude. One of my favorites is by philosopher and author Eckhart Tolle, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” That one fits well with my theory and the outcomes of my now annual personal experiment.
An interesting but possibly useless fact for you: back in November 2010, I stumbled across an equation for measuring gratitude. Having a houseful of science and math lovers, I knew I needed to work that equation into my paper and presentation. I truly don’t remember how I ever interpreted that equation, but I did work it into my paper, and this November dug it out of the archives to use as my Facebook cover photo. Who knew that an emotion or feeling or attitude could be boiled down to a mathematical equation?
Each year since my gratitude theory research I have, in one way or another, continued to stake November as my month of gratitude. Today November is widely known as National Gratitude Month. Some years I’ve made a sticky note wall or poster and each day written down my gratitude musings. Other years I’ve journaled or Facebook posted more detailed thoughts of gratitude each day. Some years it’s more challenging to flip my attitude as the shorter, darker days tend to cloud my positivity. During those times it may be days in between my intentional grateful acknowledgements, but I make myself do it. It’s important. And it still works year after year.
I challenge you now, if you haven’t taken November as your official gratitude month, to consider taking the 31 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to be intentional about your gratitude. Do it in whatever way suits your style but be intentional and do it every day. You might be surprised to find that you have far more to be grateful for than you ever imagined. I also urge you to use your gratitude for good this holiday season, as research also shows that giving back deepens your own sense of gratitude and positivity. Find a charity or a food bank or a scholarship fund or an event where you can give of your time or talent or treasure. See if you, too, can transform from attitude to gratitude.
This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for my family and my community, and for having this opportunity to share my annual gratitude exercise with all of you. Happy holidays, friends and neighbors!
Dawn Brand Fluhler is a journalist and public relations professional from Muncie now working as communications director for Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. She loves more than anything to spend time with her family and is a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady.