8 Ways Thankfulness Will Improve Your Life

How’s your Thanksgiving?  And by that, I mean, how’s your habit of giving thanks?  It’s more powerful than you think.  Here are 8 reasons why thankfulness will transform and improve your life.

On a crisp, September night in 1985, a Dutch farmer decided to take a walk through her apple orchard in eastern Pennsylvania when she noticed something.  Behind a honeycrisp tree stuck out a twisted root like she’d never seen before.  She pared off the tip and sent it away to the University of Pennsylvania lab.

In the lab and under the microscope, the root displayed such unusual and exciting properties that they wanted to see what it would do when ingested.  When monkeys nibbled on a dime-sized piece, they became noticeably more productive and peaceful.  And awesome:

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Thus, Vitamin BS was created.  

You may not have heard of Vitamin BS because of difficulty synthesizing and mass producing it until now.  Scientists have proven that it will help you work more efficiently, create more originally, and love more fully.  Vitamin BS will improve your life if taken daily.

So why does the label instruct you to take it only once a year?

The Secret to Vitamin BS Revealed

Turns out that Vitamin BS isn’t a vitamin at all, but is what we call “thankfulness.”  Researchers have found that thankfulness improves your mental, physical, and sleep health.  

(Here’s more on the power of thankfulness)

It’s this amazing, self-sustaining cycle where if you see something you’re thankful for, your brain will look for more things to be thankful for, which improves your chances of spotting more things, leading to better mental, physical, and sleep health.  

In fact, even if you can’t find something you’re thankful for, the very act of searching makes you happier.

Yet we only do it once a year.

So what happens when you celebrate Thanksgiving 100 times a year?  This is exactly what we did, asking each other what we’re thankful for during at least 2 dinners per week. Here’s what we discovered:

8 Ways Thankfulness Transforms You

  • It helped us get to know one another better: We found that when we asked, “how was your day?” our children would just give a play-by-play.  However, when we asked “what are you thankful for today?” they would process their day differently because they were forced to interpret events and search for the good in them.
  • It changed the mood at the dinner table:  When you’ve become thankful for something, it’s hard to whine and complain.  Positivity and peace became a regular dish from which we partook at our table.  Now, we didn’t ignore the challenging times, but we could discuss them without the same level of negative emotion because positivity had already filled our stomachs.
  • It created a family tradition:  It just became something we did.  Sure, some nights seemed rote and uninspired, but others were filled with magic.  And some nights if we forgot, 3-year old Liza would initiate and ask us what we’re thankful for.  A dinner started feeling incomplete if we didn’t make it a part of our conversation.
  • The quality of our thankfulness improved:  It used to be that they would be thankful for recess or something like that.  But more recently, you get things like, “I’m thankful that my dad has a job so that we can have this food,” or “I’m thankful for my brother and sister.  I love spending time with them.”  Giving thanks went from a one-liner to a conversation.

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  • It created a culture of cheering for each other:  When it is your turn to share, you are greeted with some affirmation like, “that’s great!”  It gives a sense that we’re all on the same team, cheering each other on, even if just for 15 minutes.  That gives us a sense of security: when life gets challenging, my family roots for me.
  • It empowered us:  Each person gets the table.  They can talk and field as many questions as they want.  Then when they’re done, they get to choose who goes next.  Ceding the table to the even the youngest child has emboldened each of my children.
  • It made us more thoughtful:  We started asking better questions and as a result, made dinner a more thoughtful and rich experience.  We recently began asking each other what factors had to come together in order for their moment to exist.  For example, today Zuzzy was thankful for her friend who came over for a playdate.  We asked her what had to happen in order for that playdate to have existed.  She thought about how it was important that we live on the same street.  And to live on the same street, we needed to have moved to Philadelphia.  We also had to have a certain income to afford our house. And to have that income, we needed certain jobs.  For those jobs, we needed to have applied, networked, taken risks (like moving to New York)… and so on, and so forth.
  • It pointed us to God:  This is my favorite.  When you travel down that road of questions, all signs point to God.  So let’s pick it back up from where we left off above.  To have taken that risk to move to New York, my college friend needed to have the bright idea and suggest it.  To know my friend, I needed to have gone to that specific college.  To do that, I probably needed to have been raised in America.  To be raised in America, so many wild things needed to have taken place (including a war in my birth country).  And I needed my parents to meet, of course.  And their parents as well.  Go back far enough and you’ll find that God has been crafting all of history for that moment of thanks to come together (and future moments as well).

Thank You

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When you realize that life has infinite permutations, most of which we have little control over, your paradigm changes.  When we’re the recipient of something (even if just a fleeting moment of the morning sun on your face) that we truly had little to do with, that’s when true thankfulness emerges.  That’s when we recognize who truly deserves our thanks.  

That’s when our prayers become more meaningful.

So I’m thankful for you.  I’m thankful for the trillions of decisions and events that had to have taken place for you to be reading these words right now — for us to be sharing this moment as writer and reader.  

I wish you not only a Happy Thanksgiving, but a lifestyle of giving thanks.

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