The Saturday after Thanksgiving I opened a thank you note in the U.S. mail from a couple who joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. I was touched by their note and by their promptness. I felt very grateful for their friendship in my life. These positive feelings of gratitude reminded me of an article in The Wall Street Journal last week entitled “Thank You. No, Thank You” describing how grateful people are happier and healthier.
In the research we conducted to develop our program for The 3rd Act (www.the3rdact.com), we also discovered that gratitude and a positive appreciation of life contributes to healthier and happier aging. Positive appreciation includes valuing our past, looking forward with optimism toward the future and gratitude for the joys and pleasures in the present. The positive psychology movement launched by Martin Seligman in the late 90’s emphasizes the cultivation of gratitude to change our moods, our lives and our health. Melinda Beck, the author of the Journal article, also reports that adults who feel grateful are more connected with friends and family, earn more money, exercise more regularly and even sleep more soundly.
I love what John O’Donohue writes about the value of good friends, who give us warmth and support, and change our negativity to forgiveness and gratitude. Family members are not always present or positive influences in our lives. Yet we can all treasure our friends and give the gift of our friendship.
A Friendship Blessing
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn how to be a good friend yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul
where there is great love, warmth, feeling,
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant,
or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship,
and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging
with your anam cara.
— John O’Donohue in Anam Cara
Thank you notes, friendship and gratitude? I don’t write or receive thank you notes as often today as my mother expected. We all rush forward with our lives. We might send off a quick email or leave a phone message. Sitting down and reflecting on the “gift” of a shared meal together, precious time spent together or an act of kindness or generosity, and then writing a note of our appreciation and actually mailing it at the mail box, is often missing in our busy lives. Yet, receiving the note of appreciation from a friend continues the thread of positive feelings when we read it. This thread of gratitude continues the gift of health and happiness in both our lives.
I am re-committing to writing more notes of appreciation to my friends and expressing my gratitude daily. I want to stay happy and healthy for several more years. How about you?
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A (yes, good) friend of mine got me into the habit of each night, before bed, writing down 5 or 6 things that I am grateful for from that day’s experience. It has been fun, sad, enlightening, and useful.