As I wrote in my last post, this is the season for parents and children both to create purposeful expressions of gratitude. Since I like to practice what I preach, I have been letting people know how grateful I am for their friendship, love, support, and especially their sense of humor. The result = I have been feeling happier.
It turns out that I am not alone.
The Harvard newsletter, Healthbeat, wrote a great article about two researchers who have been doing a lot of work on the connection between gratitude and happiness.
It turns out there is even a gene (CD38) associated with expressing gratitude.
Whether you are blessed with the gene or not, if you practice saying “thank you” to people around you, you will have a happier holiday season, even if your Thanksgiving dinner is spoiled by a drunken cousin or those dreaded political conversations .
Of course, if your life is hard right now, it may understandably be difficult to summon up the energy to thank anyone for anything. In that case, you could start out by thanking yourself for being strong enough to meet the challenges before you. Thank yourself first. Give to yourself first. Love yourself. That will give you the strength to move on.
Before students go back to school and the rest of us go back to work or whatever other activities are filling our days, say thank you to yourself and to the people around you who love you, support you, and make you laugh. That drunken cousin and those dreaded political conversations will fade fast in your memory, to be replaced by feelings of happiness. It’s as easy as that sometimes.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.