Have you ever noticed that the word “Thanksgiving” is actually a conjunction of two equally important words — “thanks” and “giving”? I always assumed this duo meant “giving thanks,” but in recent days I have come to think about it in a bit of a different way. I have begun to see that it is not just “thanks” that we can give this time of year, but that it is the act of “giving” in and of itself (giving anything really) that can elicit feelings of thankfulness and gratitude.
It doesn’t surprise me that gratitude and generosity go hand in hand. Last week in sangha Patty talked about how when we cultivate a consistent gratitude practice we find ourselves feeling more willing to give and share with others. What a coincidence, sangha marveled together, that the month heralded as a time of giving at its finest follows the month when we give thanks!
Science shows, in fact, that there is a connection between gratitude and giving or helping others. For example, people who are grateful are more connected to their communities, more willing to help others and have a strong sense of purpose. Even simply expressing thanks can motivate “paying it forward,” keeping the reciprocal cycle of giving and receiving alive. Romantic relationships can benefit from appreciation too … as partners who are acknowledged and appreciated tend to both show increased appreciation in return AND have a tendency to work harder in the relationship.
In this cycle of generosity and gratitude, giving and thanks have a bidirectional relationship — one fueling the other. Think about it — the more grateful you feel, the more content and accepting you are of what you have, and the less entitled you may feel to having, getting or needing more. These feelings of humility and contentment can lead to a desire to help or be of service to others, which can often lead to feeling valued and important, especially if thanks are expressed by the recipient of your kindness and generosity. Ultimately, when we feel like we have had a positive impact on the world around us, we find ourselves back in a place of deep appreciation and gratitude.
I frequently talk about how one of the most powerful outpourings of a regular and consistent gratitude practice is joy. Living in what Patty referenced in sangha last week as a “state of gratitude” can lead to an increase in various pleasant and connecting emotions — happiness, awe, contentment and as we’ve reflected upon here, generosity. I wonder if any of you have noticed an uptick in these over the last few weeks if you have been following along on this month of gratitude practice? What else have you noticed? How can you take this feeling of gratefulness into the winter holidays? What do you think might change if you do?
Grateful for you all, every single day—
Nikki and the Sacred Treehouse faculty
Nicole Davis is a licensed psychologist practicing at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Davis starts with the core belief that each person already has everything they need to live a life of joy and fulfillment, and that therapy is just a process of uncovering their inherent wholeness. Dr. Davis gently invites her clients to uncover their strengths in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Dr. Davis completed MBSR facilitator training through the Center for Mindfulness at UCSD. Dr. Davis is also a 200-hour trained yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance