Some Thoughts on Gratitude

I recently did an experiment where I expressed gratitude every day for a week for something and posted it to my Twitter and Mastodon social media feeds.

The instigator for this was the US Thanksgiving holiday and a video someone shared with me on the healing power of gratitude from the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (he’s basically like the Pope is for Catholics). I found his message very good and timely, even for non-Christian or non-religious types. I decided to take his challenge, and this post is to sum up some of my thoughts about it.

One unique thing you may not know about President Nelson is that even though he leads a world-wide faith, he doesn’t hold a degree from a religious seminary. Being a priest wasn’t his career when he was younger. He was a doctor, the kind that actually helps people. During his time as a heart surgeon he was quite renowned and was a pioneer in open-heart surgery.

In his message he mentions the current pandemic, racism, social ills, and other problems currently going on in the world and then gives a prescription that I initially found a bit surprising. It was to simply express gratitude for things you have and are around you.

He said that while expressing gratitude may not “solve” the various issues and problems we and others have, it can be very beneficial to our souls. He says “No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription.” He continues that while it doesn’t spare us from hurt or pain, illness or disease, “…it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life.”

His “prescription” or invitation was quite simple: share things you are grateful for every day on social media for a week and then at the end of that week take stock on how you feel. Did it help make you feel better? Did it make life a little less gray and depressing? Was it beneficial?

After having now gone through this experiment myself I can say very definitively that he is correct. After a week of posting about things I’m grateful for, I do feel much better overall. There is lots of joy in this world and if you look for silver linings you can find lots of them, even in this Covid-19-ravaged, racist-plagued, dumpster-fire of a year 2020 has been.

My own gratitude posts weren’t profound or anything. I posted one day that I was grateful the weather had been nice, which it had. Another day I posted a bit about my manager, who has been battling cancer and how he’s doing much better. I also posted that I love my spouse and children and how I’m grateful for them. All in all, I said nothing surprising or out of the ordinary.

However, every day prior to posting I would sit for a few minutes and think of things I was grateful for. Of course, the end purpose was to come up with something to post, but it also turned into a sort-of meditation / prayer / whatever-you-want-to-call-it. For a few minutes every day I was conscious of the things around me that were and are wonderful. I was present and aware of things and privileges I have that I’m very lucky to have and that I am grateful for. It was an amazing experience, and one that I’m going to try and continue, even if I don’t make posts on social media about it.

Every day after writing my short posts I always seemed to have more energy and I just felt better. I didn’t solve any pressing world problems, but personally I wasn’t as stressed out or upset over things that are, if I’m being honest, mostly outside of my control or influence.

I know this specific event was for the week leading up to the US Thanksgiving holiday of 2020, but it’s totally OK to run your own gratitude week starting now, or whenever, and I invite you to do so. I think it’s something everyone should do. So what are you grateful for?

Take care and be safe out there! More techno-oriented posts coming up next.